I’m Not Saying Goodbye

boat

Goodbyes are never easy, so I decided I’m not going to say goodbye this time. Instead, my parting embraces are now paired with a “I’ll see you again soon,” which is much more hopeful than a dramatic, definite goodbye.

This doesn’t, however, mean that there aren’t tears. Oh, there have been plenty of those.

Gone will be the weeks filled with daily, lengthy visits to impoverished neighborhoods where refugees hospitably welcome us into their homes. Gone will be the days of appropriately sitting on floors with my feet underneath me, drinking cup after cup of black tea because they so desperately want to honor me as their guest but have nothing else to serve. Gone will be hours of phone calls in determined efforts to find a way to bring these people and their individual cases to justice.

I’m going to miss this.

As the days are crossed off and I’m well into the single digits, the reality that this season is coming to an end has fully sunk in. Although the Lord has affirmed to Jesse and I that we will indeed be coming back here after we get married, still, it won’t be the same. My team will be different, my focuses will have widened, and my living arrangements will be with my new husband!

Even the pace of life will change. Right now I know my role- I spent the last two years learning it. I feel comfortable with setting up visits and can easily overbook my week, for there’s never a lack of work to do! I’m working full swing, full time, full action.

When we come back in the spring, however, I’ll be starting back at language learning again. This time, it will be to once-and-for-all conquer the mind-boggling vernacular spoken in this land. Now I can get by, but choosing to live here longer means it’s time to get serious. I need to be able to fluently string together combinations of words and sentences to truly thrive and be faithful to our calling. I will be restless, but it will be worth it.

Many things will stay the same, and I will be eagerly awaiting to return to the normalcy of life I’m now accustomed to. The crowded streets I’ve grown to become a part of. Olives for breakfast. Dogs everywhere. Men hauling loads of melons through neighborhoods yelling out “Here you go, here you go!” Frequent walks down by the water to escape the city smog. Jumping unto moving transportation crammed with too many passengers. Winking at women and children, and holding babies that are not my own. Fresh vegetable stands on every corner. Hearing the call to prayer 5 times a day. Striking up conversation with the flower ladies. Walking everywhere.

So, my dear country, this is a parting hug to you. Thank you for these past two years filled with memories, lessons learned, and millions of people who crossed my path here on your cobblestone streets.

I’ll miss you, but this is not a goodbye. I’ll see you again soon!

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Transitioned? Cont’d: People

People: the 4th section on my coat of arms.

Transitioning from a summer of meeting with multiple people every day to immersing myself in studying Turkish was this extrovert’s nightmare. At first I felt completely isolated. This is not what I envisioned serving overseas to look like! I was here because I wanted to work with people, but instead I was inside memorizing verb tenses. I wanted to scream. At the same time, the learner and achiever in me knew that this bookwork is an essential step to becoming an efficient tool for helping refugee and for communicating Truth. So I pressed on. Pretty soon I was out walking the streets in search of Turks to practice my language skills. Now, rarely am I in my house with my Turkish book for longer than 3 hours, because the rest of my study time I am out and about with my new Turkish helpers. Learning by speaking. We laugh a lot. I say a lot of things I shouldn’t- unintentionally, of course. So then we laugh some more. And a strange thing is happening: we’re becoming friends. Conversations are being exchanged about faith, family, and most importantly, football. Somehow, my broken Turkish actually is functioning enough to build relationships. It’s a miracle. Learning Turkish by being social– it’s almost too good to be true.

How is this a factor of feeling transitioned? Well, in comparing my first month to my third month- going on four- having friends really makes a difference in feeling like I belong here. Daily meeting up with familiar faces gleefully drives home the fact that I’m not just passing through. I’m here to stay awhile. And I’m here to invest. In people.

I. Love. People.

Transitioned?

There are little things in life that matter. Routine. Habit. Hobby. Things that if one is missing something feels a little off balance.

Unfortunately running really isn’t that popular in Istanbul. The only intentional exercise I see people doing outside takes place at parks where there are a variety of ‘weight’ machines with zero resistance. You could do a hundred bicep curls without breaking a sweat, yet people here actually use them pretty seriously. No joke. Thus said- my experiences running through the crowded city streets have not been that enjoyable. It’s not hard to tell by the scornful distaste displayed on faces that an American female running around town isn’t necessarily a common scene. In the neighborhood I lived in when I first arrived, I found a path along the Bosphorous so running wasn’t that bad. However, running in my new neighborhood -regarding the above details- is impossible. I feel like I’m the exhibit in a zoo, so I’ve avoided it at all costs. This loss of something that my routine has been shaped around since high school slowly began to sneak its effects into my system. Crabby attitude. Difficulty sleeping. Lower energy. Each conversation with my mentor has gone something like: Are you able to run? No. Hmmm maybe you should run.

Whoever knows me knows that if there is ever a moment that I’m not singing, something must be wrong. There is always a song in my heart. Ones I know by heart or ones I know only the first line of and then make up the rest -much to my sister’s chagrin. It’s a habit I cannot break. Regardless, singing brings me immense joy. In fact, if I had to choose one thing to do for the rest of my life, it would be to sing. For Him. Boy- heaven is going to be a blast!

Any and every excuse to bake I jump at the opportunity. I’ll often unwind by emptying my cupboards and see what I can create with the contents. Sometimes I even trade my baked goods for physical labor- example: men moving furniture into our apartment and promising them brownies in return. They think they’re getting the good end of the deal. Wrong. it’s me. I win. Because I get to bake. In my kitchen I can breathe and I can have control and I can use my hands… I could get all poetic and write a whole page about the magic that happens whenever I have a whisk in my hand, but I’ll spare you. The point of the matter is baking has been and will be a staple hobby of my life.

If I were to make a coat of arms to share who I am, three of the four sections would be
1. Running 2. Singing 3.Baking

(The 4th section would be People- I’ll write another post on that later)

Why am I sharing this? Because as flexible and adaptable I try to be, sometimes some things simply cannot change in order to serve at full capacity.  And I realized it only when one day this past week I was overwhelmed by how after being here for three months I had never felt as fully transitioned as I did in that moment. Key things that changed for me to feel like ‘myself’:

1. I joined the gym across the street (separate floors for men and women)
2. I began serving by leading worship at my international church of 20 beautiful new sisters and brothers
3. Because of the holidays, my oven has had many excuses to be regularly set at 350 degrees F.

Before coming overseas I was encouraged to write a list of ways to practice self-care.
The little things do matter, and I think I can finally check them all off now.