Celebrate the Good Days

muffin

My husband and I celebrated my progress with mugs of decaf Americanos and chocolate chunk gluten free oat cakes. Being that I’ve been off caffeine and sugar for the past 3 months, this seemed an appropriate way to commemorate stepping stones of success.

I didn’t totally go wild, however- thus the decaf- and I’ll still be sugar free/caffeine free until my body totally rebuilds its systems.

But for now, a minor cheat deemed a worthy cause.

What’s the progress?

At my last doctors appointment, it appeared that my chemical toxin detox has been completed. There are no lingering amounts of the chemicals my body had been affected by. This means I’m able to stop taking 3 of the supplements I’ve been on. Hooray! Good job body!

We really do have an amazing Creator. He designed our bodies with the ability to heal themselves when given a chance.

Thank you, Great Physician, for the organic healing you’ve administered throughout my physical being.

Healthwise, the good days are finally outnumbering the bad. Remember when it seemed impossible to see the light at the end of the tunnel? Well, I can see it now. Encouraged beyond all hope, my anticipation only grows.

With glimpses of a healthy and uninhibited lifestyle in the near future, all I can do is pray that my body continues to move forward. Although there will still be a few more relapse hurdles to jump over, I know that as I push off the ground, my strides are steadily bringing me closer to the finish line.

The exhertion I spend getting there won’t be anything in comparison to the energy I’ll be rewarded with.

I’m turning the bend. Homestretch here I come.

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In the Flesh

Being pulled out of life’s rhythm to fly across the globe to see and catchup with my other world of people could have seemed too daunting or too risky: not worth breaking out of ministry or the guilt of wasting resources. But that’s not the way I saw it. Because for me, life is a gift. YOLO.

Plus, the timing of this particular gift could not have been better.

I was brought out of the Turkey turmoil back to America for a wedding. Having already lived out of my suitcase for one week to avoid living in Protestville –the one I had packed into my suitcase during the anxious rush to flee– I again re-packed its random contents (praising God I had remembered my passport and bridesmaids dress,) and 18 hours later landed in the good ole USA. Ready for stability and support and love, a wedding was a perfect place match for a displaced soul.

However, I felt the love long before the wedding festivities even began. My sweet friend who picked me up from LAX knows me well enough to take me straight to Manhattan Beach inclusive of special treats from Starbucks:) With American sand between my toes and waves and wind twisting my hair into the ever familiar, salty, SoCal tangles, my smile immediately plastered itself permanently onto my face.

It was as if nothing had changed. Except so much had.

I was then dropped into the arms of another who offered me traveler’s gold: a glass of ice water, a hot shower, and a home. The evening passed by in a dreamlike whirr as old roommates (whom I will never stop calling my roommates) joined us for dinner. Plates were piled high with quinoa, garden tomatoes, carameled pecan salad, and bright red fruit.

My host delightfully outdid herself:) Brownies and ice cream followed a transition from the kitchen table to the front porch couch. There we sat under the stars… pinching ourselves at times in near disbelief of actually being in the same place after a year of being apart.

When I committed to two years in Turkey, there were no plans for any trips back to America. But then a wedding beckoned and a ticket miraculously slapped in front of me. I knew I could take the trip.

It was a gift.

Such a gift. The next two days with my roommates, forever to be known as the Core Four**, and other familiar APU faces deepened my appreciation and recognition of the gift I had been given. I was so encouraged to be able to spend time with my friends and see with my own eyes that they are all doing what they deem obedience to the Lord by seeking and surrendering to the path that He has purposed for each one of them. Not only that, but they’re pursuing it with joy and blessing; nothing made me happier than to see God’s favor poured out over their lives.

Then, being able to share my experiences and the work God is doing with people who I know have been serving alongside me with support was unreal. Looking at everything that has happened in the past year and then being physically brought back to the friends who lived, dreamed, planned, and prayed with me before any of it launched into action… Let’s just say what we know to be true but continue to learn and experience: God is faithful, and God is good.

And He keeps on giving.

The next day I drove 7 hours north with a soulsister to celebrate the event for which I flew across the ocean. As I stood witness to one of the most beautiful ceremonies I’ve been blessed be a part of, tears streamed endlessly down my face. Yes, emotions were obviously heightened by the continental jump I’d recently taken, then of course by the love story of this stunning couple saying I Do…  then add to that the love story of the girls standing to my left and to my right. Overwhelmed, I struggled to take it all in.

Who are these important girls that brought the waterworks, you ask? Well, we call ourselves the Fab Five, and our love story began five years ago. I must reminisce…

Although it wasn’t love at first sight, it was a love that took root from the first day of college that fateful week of choir camp. Growing stronger as we grew more sure of ourselves, we slowly began to lower our guards, and then boom! Out came our weirdness, our contrasting personalities, our ugly but beautiful selves, our fiery passions, and a supernatural bond of love. Going through four college years of developing together and individually, these girls have become part of who I am and I couldn’t imagine life without them. We’re all still very different and journeying our various paths, yet despite the long-distance and busy schedules, we continue to grow together.

This was evident as we spent a week together celebrating the marriage of one of us– best friends reconnecting as best friends do: with laughter and tears, late nights of both silly, nonsensical conversations as well as ones processing heavy decisions, and early morning runs so we can eat more food than the too much food we already ate the previous day and the day before that. Of course, being together in the flesh –braiding each other’s hair, dancing hand-in-hand, all of us sprawled on one hotel bed chatting our lives away, linking hearts with hundreds of hugs and prayers– is definitely the preferred context for friendship. But when we said goodbye there was peace and gratitude, each one knowing it wouldn’t be long before a text, e-mail, skype date, or snapchat would be in the making
again:)

I left California with a full heart, amazed at the people God has wrapped my life with and humbled at how well they love me every minute of every day. I don’t deserve it. But God is so good, and the gifts He gives are ever abounding and have a high tendency of coming in the flesh…

**And it seems apparently my friends and I make numerical titles: Core Four/Fab Five…
#priceless #beyondblessed

Happy Republic Day

An anthem was being paraded around the streets of Istanbul on this fresh fall day… with tunes echoing through the alleys and penetrating the glass windows, well, there was simply too much excitement going on for this Turkish student to stay indoors studying. Throwing books aside, I wandered outside to be part of the action. Passing under strewn banners glorifying Ataturk, the man we’ve come to call ‘the face of Turkey’, I followed the bold trail of red and yellow flags which lead me to the source of the music’s echoes. Assembled in our square was an army of a band, standing proud and respectful, wooing the crowd and commemorating the holiday with a rich melody. Chills running up and down, I let the musical experience wash over me, appreciating the fervor with which they remembered the day Mustafa Kemal declared Turkey a republic.

Chills again resurfaced as I stood at the Bosphorus’s bank, watching explosions of fireworks go off over the water, soaring above the bridge linking Asia with Europe. Tonight, all of Istanbul’s eyes were on the skies. None of us wanted it to end. But when the finale began, deafening cheers erupted as fireworks formed the shapes of turkey’s moon and star. Hooting and hollering along with the Turks, clicking my camera; nothing could capture the passion piercing the air in those last moments. The rain accompanied the end of the dazzling display, falling on all of us as if to say, “now go! live!” Slowly, gawkers began inching their way home. Turkey’s triumphant march continued to rumble among the people’s voices, all resounding in agreement.

My Republic, My Republic,

We your people prosper,
Your name we do not forget.
Under your wings, our salvation lies,
Under your wings, we are born and die.
You are a loving mother,
You are our happiness,
The love in our hearts for you,
Forever will endure, thus,
My Republic will endure, forever

—Sabri Cemil Yalkut

 

Reason to Celebrate

I was out sick Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday: I accidently ate something last Sunday with gluten in it and it sent my body into the worst reaction I’ve ever experienced. I won’t go into details…

However, Thursday morning when I finally had enough energy to open my bible for the 1st time in 3 days, I was immediately hit with what I should have seen and appreciated in those moments of hell. I should have seen how my sick days were God’s will. I should have accepted them and looked for ways to find God’s presence in my bedridden misery. He knows better than me what I need. Why did I wallow in my depression instead of turn and depend on Him? A missed opportunity. But then again, by God’s grace he took the blinders off my eyes as I reflected upon the purpose he had in me getting sick. He was trying to teach me how to receive, which even includes the bad as his will for the moment.

I pray all the time to receive his good, and if he works all things together for the good of those who love him, how can I claim sickness as evil instead of his goodness. I mean, who can know the mind of God, right? If my hands are open to receive, to trust in his plan, I need to stop categorizing the different life situations I experience to my own standards, because all this shows is my selfish desire to control and pick and choose, grasping only what I deem fitting to be God’s plan instead of really receiving his will in every situation.

Before this week I had recently been reading and learning about how my daily task is to simply trust. And I’ve been intentionally trying to practice Trust. John 6:29 says “This is the work that God asks of you: that you believe (acting in trust) in the One whom he has sent.” As I think about it, it shouldn’t be difficult to trust in retrospect of EVERYTHING God has done for me. His Son. His sacrifice. His forgiveness. His unconditional, perfect love. He is all I need. I am safe in His promises.

Though anytime a storm hits, I foolishly forget that every moment is His will. Nothing changes-God remains the same- yet I respond in an untrusting and childish manner. I think I know better. I pick and choose the moments by myself, missing the chance to receive the fullness of his Joy in the moments (good or “bad”) he gives me. On my own I am incapable of releasing my will to accept His. Incapable of trusting and being thankful for every moment of his will. But my God strengthens me and helps me, He upholds me with his righteous right hand. He is my helper. He helps me find joy in what he gives. What he takes.

This experience has reminded me again that I am nothing without Christ. I cannot attempt to live like Christ without Christ. It’s impossible. I literally need to depend on him for EVERYTHING. He ALONE is the reason it’s even possible to receive his grace to pray for faith that comes through trust and belief in who he is and what he has done and what he wills. For EVERY moment.

And then it’s amazing. Trusting. Living in his continual presence. Seeing him in every moment. I obviously have a loooooong ways to go.  But he’s teaching me. And as I learn and receive and trust, his JOY is my reward, therefore I cannot help but celebrate by giving praise and thanks and glory back to Him.

This morning there was a marathon in Istanbul, so all the main roads were closed, which meant none of the buses were running. I take the bus to church. I was so angry when I got to the bus stop and the roads were closed; all I wanted to do was celebrate and worship the LORD and who he is and the work he’s doing! God knew- and sent a friend my way who creatively led me a different route by walking and taxi and subway- and we made it to church. We were only 25 minutes late. And guess what? It was dubbed “Celebration Sunday,” which meant that we worshiped and sang praises for the entire service.

How fitting- after the week I had- to bring it in full circle with a morning of praise… Amen and AMEN!