A New Season

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Jesse and I arrived here 6 days ago.

What’s amazing is that in those 6 days we have found an apartment, basically been able to reconnect with most of our friends, lead a God honoring worship service, re-introduce myself to the refugee community, hold a dozen babies, have multiple truth conversations, and eat all our favorite cultural foods.

Whew. All in less than a week.

Our friends keep saying to me, “It’s like you never left.”

Indeed. In many ways, being back feels fairly normal. Public transportation, walking miles upon miles, frequent cups of tea, city noises and smells… nothing has phased me yet. Even the language isn’t totally unfamiliar; surprisingly, words have naturally been formulating themselves into somewhat sensical sentences during both friendly and not-so-friendly exchanges.

All the typical day-to-day occurences seem less foreign than I would have expected after being gone for 9 months.

Returning feels right.

Returning also feels different.

New apartment. New neighborhood. New job. New roles. New husband. New team.

Granted we haven’t even been here for a week yet, but my sense of identity definitely appears to be looming beyond my reach. I can already feel the discomfort setting in. It’s obvious I can’t just pop back into the groove I left behind. No, it’s going to be another season of stretching and growing and shaping and molding– an exercise I’m more than acquainted with.

Just thinking about it sends butterflies to my stomach. Uuuuffya. Part of me wishes I could fast forward to a year from now, if only to see the niche where my husband and I will arrive. However, the other part of me knows that seasons like these are worth so much more than the end result.

Worth lies in the stretching and growing and shaping and molding– where the new me will spring from. Everything shall play its part: the surprises, disappointments, successes, and trials… all of which God allows my life to entail.

As a new wife in a new season, I could very easily overwhelm myself with my long list of uncertainties, unknowns, fears, and doubts for the future. Instead, I’m choosing to head into this season excitedly and prayerfully, fully aware of the journey we have embarked on, casting all my cares upon the Lord.

David said it wonderfully:

“Wait patiently for the Lord. Be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.”
-Psalm 27:14.

What I wish I’d known…

I was recently asked by a friend to share some thoughts on what I wish I’d known before going overseas for others who are following the same track I’m on. As I reflect on how to respond, my mind goes a couple different directions…

First, I immediately jump to my misconceived assumption that the majority of people in Turkey would speak English. It was a shock to get here and recognize that I had my work cut out for me language-wise. Being such a relational person, it’s been really hard for me to not be able to strike up conversation with my Turkish language helpers aside from the vocabulary they’re helping me learn. Its painful being a people person and not being able to communicate! I’ve now been here for 3 months, spending 20 hours of each week studying the language. My advice for others going abroad would be to get a head start on language learning before arriving at the field… Even though support raising kept me really busy, I still wish I would have known to study Turkish more beforehand so I would have a foundation to build on… There is hope though. Yesterday I was actually able to share what I believe with two of my friends- IN TURKISH. I’m still amazed and humbled that it made sense! So despite my language struggle, God is evidently at work!

Also, I encounter more brokenness than I know how to handle. I knew what I was getting into, but I didn’t know how the extent of how it would effect me. The stories I hear from the refugees I am working with are filled with injustice and pain and overwhelming oppression. When a woman unloads her personal tragedy to me, relating an experience that goes beyond my understanding of how humans could possibly be so evil and cause so much harm, I break. My emotions. My body. My heart. I physically feel sick. Ministry is heavy. But then I remember: Christ shared in our sufferings. He knows what they have gone through. He’s experienced being treated far worse, becoming lower than excrement. And he suffered so we can have freedom. All our burdens became his on the cross. And I am here to share that good news. To usher them into a Kingdom of justice, of righteousness, and of joy. This is the Kingdom we are meant to be a part of. So, when I’m sitting in that chair, listening to their story and absorbing their hurt, the immense amounts of empathy and pain and righteous indignation that I feel can also be laid down. I’m learning to surrender the burdens I take on from my ministry, so that I can be a vessel of light and of hope of the victory we have through Jesus. My advice: start practicing surrender right now. Make it a daily habit to bring your burdens- personal and ministry related, no matter how big or small- and lay them at the foot of the cross. Learning how to do this as a spiritual discipline before you go on the field will be helpful for when you encounter brokenness in mass quantity.

Lastly, I wish I knew how big identity crisis would be upon leaving APU for the field. Identity is always a common issue, but even more so after college and while living overseas. In Turkey, it’s definitely been a process finding my niche and role, and I became aware of how I was holding unto that as identity instead of Christ as identity. See, I am currently working primarily with kids, while at APU I thrived discipling college students. For awhile I struggled with not feeling like myself because I’m doing a different type of work. However, I’m going to be changing work areas all throughout my life, so defining who I am by what ministry I do simply cannot be my identity. We obviously change and grow and are molded, and each season serves to strengthen who we are in Christ, preparing us for the next season. When I look at myself and my achievements, the ground starts to shake and I feel like I’m in the wrong place. But when my eyes are glued on Him he keeps building on that firm foundation, assuring me of His faithfulness and affirming His calling to serve where he placed me. I had no idea I would jump from directing trips to Mexico for college students to teaching a classroom of 5-9 year old, beautiful little refugee children. I loved what I did at APU and I love what I do now. They both involve very different sets of giftings. However, God has shown me that when I open my heart to serve as He leads, He will grow new passions in me and equip me for where he has placed me. God desires a willing and obedient spirit, with identity placed solely in Christ, so that his glory can be made known. Taking our eyes off of ourselves is the first step:)

My Starbucks Identity

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At every single Starbucks I have ever ordered a coffee at, when they ask for a name to write on that  siren stamped paper cup, 90% of the time I’ll say Kim. Sometimes I say it with a hint of question- my tone higher- and I think: Ugh, why do I do that? My name is not a question and I am not British (though I’m certain I must have a British drop of blood in me somewhere). Any Pub.Com or English prof would crinkle their nose at how words escape my mouth. Besides my dialect, they would also raise their eyebrows in inquiry- Kim? Yes, Kim. Even though for as long as I can remember, Kimmy was the name I wrote on all my spelling tests, papers, and lunch bags. It’s what my friends, family, teachers, and acquaintances know me by. It’s who I am, EXCEPT at Starbucks. Well, at every AMERICAN Starbucks.

The times they asked a name and I gave the response Kimmy, they never got it right. What? Cammy? Timmy? Jimmy? No. Kimmy. So I avoided the hassle this always brought up and dropped the ‘–my’. From then on, my Starbucks order was smooth sailin’. Grande iced coffee with 2 pumps caramel and an inch of soy, please. For Kim. Easy.

In Turkish Starbucks, however, I have to now unlearn this manner of response. Kim, in Turkish, means who?… Yupp. That would be problematic. So, I went into my first Turkish Starbucks mentally prepared and knowledgeable about what my typical Starbucks name signifies, and equally as excited to finally tell Starbucks my real name… but habit doesn’t break easily.

When it came time, they asked my name, and I blurted out Kim. Of course there was confusion and they repeated the question. I caught my foolishly preventable error and quickly said, Adim Kimmy. Whew. Coffee ordered and in my hands. With the first sip I was already thinking ahead to the next time, how I would not make that practiced mistake. Yet still I smiled silly to myself: thank you Turkish Starbucks. By way of cultural conundrum, you have restored my identity.