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.

Someday Soon

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My husband and I are on a unique journey. A lot like a writing slump where all you want to do is write but you’re waiting for something to happen that’s important enough to write about (this is me ALL THE TIME), we’re living in a “not yet” “someday soon” mentality. We pray for the finances to come in so our life overseas can take-off. Like an author without a story to write, knowing the call that we have but not being able to do it yet can sometimes be frustrating.

This week I re-took the StrengthsFinder test. I took it both my freshman and senior year of college with semi-differing results. After 2 years working abroad post-college and now being a newlywed, I was curious to see how and if my strengths had developed. My top strength once again confirmed the bold truth for how I function and thrive.

Activator: “People strong in Activator theme can make things happen by turning thoughts into action. They are often impatient.” Hmmm.

So this impatience, discontentment, and craving to “do” are the underlying traits that tend to arise if I am not busy “activating.” No wonder I’m so restless!

The time we’ve been in America has mainly consisted of talk. Talk talk talk talk talk…. “We’re going to be moving to place A where we will be working with organization B enacting strategy C in order to accomplish purpose D…” Although our talking is definitely building purposeful partnering relationships, the emphasis on the end goal has me kicking to jump on a plane and act on it!
Of course, my second strength would be Positivity.

“People strong in positivity theme have an enthusiasm that is contagious. They are upbeat and can get others excited about what they are going to do.”

Naturally the optimism works to balance out my impatient self– because yes, I am excited and you should be excited becasue what we’re going to be doing is very exciting! You see?:)

During all the waiting and preparation and ideation, my third strength comes into play: Belief.

“People strong in the Belief theme have certain core values that are unchanging. Out of these values emerges a defined purpose for their life.”

I hold tight to what I know my purpose to be. Amidst the uncertainty and waiting, I go to Jesus to fill my cup. He is what I cling to; His promises flood my soul.

Before I know it, we’ll be buying plane tickets and packing our bags.

Someday soon.

Stuck by the Psalms

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It’s humbling when I realize I cannot move past a Psalm I have read countless times before, a Psalm that I had even memorized in elementary school and quoted from time to time. How do I brush over the very words I know I must confess but lack the initial desire to do so? I sat with my bible in my lap, staring at the page. Finally, frustrated by my stubborn mindset, I forced my lips open with a desperate whisper: “Spirit, please, soften my heart.”

Then, I read it yet again.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit

Although I read it without emotion, this time it punctured my heart with a conviction I could not ignore and knew had to be addressed. It was time to admit my childish attitude and surrender the selfish discontentment I had been focusing on for far too long. A poisonous perspective that had pulled me further into a world of impatience and waste. Did I really want to stay here any longer? No. I want to want to get out. But how?

As soon as I had a slight change of heart, the Lord mercifully brought my wandering mind into His truth, hinting that this is the prayer I need to be praying and the prayer I need an army to be praying over me.

How did I stray in the first place? I didn’t wait.

So many times in scripture it says to wait for the Lord.

And I do. Except for the times when I’m unsatisfied with the current scenerio and begin wishing for a better plan, grumbling and complaining about how where I’m at is not where I want to be. Then, without knowing it, my distaste for God’s will quickly turns into ungrateful distrust which only leads into a downhill depression.

People tell me to be thankful for hardships, that they are a test of faith. But by that time the negativity takes control and I’m tempted to respond back to their unwanted advice with “Well, I’ve already learned a lot in this season and I’m ready for what’s next. I’m so over this.”

Wait for the Lord. Be strong and take heart, and wait for the Lord.

If God didn’t want me where he has me, I wouldn’t be here. But I’m still here. He has the key to the master plan, not me.

Even though I think I’m done, apparently I’m not. When my current situation appears inconvenient and complicated, that’s merely a signal for me to go deeper into seeking God’s transforming grace and to walk by the faith He has gifted me with.

So that’s what I was trying to do when Psalm 51 broke down my wall of rebellion, reminding me of my ugly sin, my dire need to be in communion with God, that I am nothing without Jesus, and that the joy I possess is not on accord of me or my surroundings, but abounds from the life eternal I have with the One who loved me first: the One who I will live my whole life loving.

In this world it’s definitely a fight to the finish, and I know there will be many occasions where my flesh will fail again… but HE GIVES MORE GRACE. He who makes new. He who sustains. He, my Joy.

Come Back Next Week

By now, we all should know that time in Turkey is… slow.

Slowing, waiting, practicing patience– these are all traits of grace that have yet to flow naturally from my veins. My character’s tendency is to activate, think quickly, maximize time, and serve with efficiency.

There’s nothing worse than being halted in my tracks; painstakingly frozen on the bottom step, unable to move forward. I have goals, a plan. Places to go, people to see.

I see each day as a gift to be unwrapped and used to its full potential, leaving nothing untouched or wasted.

Maybe it’s the American achiever in me, or maybe it’s the genuine desire to obediently live out a life of stewardship and responsibility with whatever God puts under my feet.

These feet, however, had suddenly been forced to a standstill. Weighed down by one notably important factor determining my steps and very much affecting the future of my work: the infamous visa.

I applied for it about 7 months ago, but since Turkey’s population is daily being stuffed with new immigrants and asylum seekers, my appointment ended up befalling in March.

Nervous beyond limits for the grandeur of the occasion, I arrived on my assigned date with the necessary paperwork and passport. With the exception of a minor complication that sent me running through an unfamiliar neighborhood in stressful search of a money exchange office that would give me a receipt for proof of a heinous dollar amount, the initial visit went quite smoothly.

I left the police station with a slip stamped “April 8”- the retrieval date for my visa.

April 8 was a full day so I went the 12th instead. As long as I got it within a month’s notice I’d be fine.

Excited to finally become an official resident of this country I have come to love, I sat in the lobby with my roommate eating pre-celebratory M&M’s, waiting to hear my name.

At the sound of my name I jumped up and stood at attention before the source. He looked at me, then back down at the slip of paper he was holding, the one stamped April 8. A new stamp had pressed its inked letters unto the white surface: April 17.

“Come back next week,” he said.

Trying to refute this delay of documents, I meekly asked, “Why?”

“It’s not ready yet,” was his short reply and he turned to gift someone else their bit of bad news.

Following orders, I faithfully returned the next week where I was handed the same instructions of “come back next week” along with a new stamp.

Now, the trek to this police station takes about half a day… It’s not terribly convenient. But then again, convenient is a word I barely recognize anymore.

My third trip at an attempted retrieval followed the same suite as the first two. I began to wonder, did they lose it? As soon as familiar phrase was repeated I confronted in brave Turkish “I think you lost it. It’s been almost a month, I’ve been back here three times already!” To which he replied, “it is not lost, it’s just not ready.” Then tagged it again with “come back next week.”

Not wanting to be bested, I brought along my Turkish friend to fight for me the following week. We waited in the lobby for about 2 hours, ears tuned for the only English name in the overflowing room. Babies cried. Mothers scolded. Multiple languages were being voiced. My friend and I scripted out our response for if I was overlooked again.

She heard it, and we went up to the front. I almost didn’t believe what was happening as they pushed papers towards me to sign… then it clicked: MY RESIDENCE PERMIT WAS READY! I nearly jumped up and down.

I doubt they’d ever seen somebody as happy as I was- happy that I’d never have to journey back to the station again.

Due to the frequent trips as well as my Turkish celebrity-like appearance I had made friends with many of the policemen… As nice and kind as they were, I didn’t mind saying goodbye. I was beyond relieved. My feet were free! I was free!

Free to live and move forward as a resident of Turkey.

The wait, though painful, was worth it.

Yavaş Yavaş

Beds? cheapest ones in town- they even pop up for underneath storage!
Turkish rugs? an absolute steal! (must find a carpet cleaner)
Second hand random coffee tables? i’ll take 4!
Nescafe instant coffee? coffee pots cost an arm and a leg!
Thriftstore wardrobe? Narnia!
Svanby beyge couch? hours of ikea adventures!
Junky streetside fan? no more pigeon coo’s to wake these girls up/hello ventilation!
Fridge fillers? fresh produce markets on every corner!
Cupboard cravings? supplied by our friendly nut stand man!

After trekking literally everywhere to gather meager furnishings, it’s official. By week four of this two year venture, we have finally moved into our own space. Setting up our living quarters definitely took a lot longer than anticipated, however it allowed me perspective on the pace of life lived around us. Everything demands time and a physical journey. Nothing happens by going online. One must take a ferry, connect to a minibus, connect to a metrobus, connect to the metro, and then walk up istanbul’s infamous hills in order to start the electric bill or turn on the gas. Errands that take 5 minutes in America may take an entire day here. Such is the pace of life.

So when the time came, we were more than ready to unpack our suitcases, go to sleep in our apartment, wake up in our apartment, and then go to sleep in our apartment. Getting to this point has indeed been enjoyable and invaluable. Being out and about in the lively culture, getting unintentional tours of Istanbul’s landscape, climbing many a hill, frequenting our favorite cafe with 5 lira kahvalti, meeting our neighbors, and making friends with our limited turkish… it has created the foundation of “yavaş[sh] yavaş[sh],” or “slowly slowly.”

Slowly we will learn language and culture. Day by day we will grow in relationship with God and relationship with one another. Time is beautiful, so let us not rush it.