Faith Yesterday, Now Gone Away

These are words I wrote a couple months ago about faith and fear. Some days it seems I’m so close to God that I can sense Him in everything. And other days are quite the opposite. I live life with people who are going through the worst things a person can go through and I watch them experience the same tension. I get the sense that my community is generally tired with deep, soul-level exhaustion. And sometimes that alone is enough to stretch our faith until it seems it can stretch no more. These words are snap-shot of different tensions I have had recently, or I have seen the people around me feel.  It’s is an expression of many of my own feelings I have from time-to-time, as well as an overflow of the empathy I feel for those around me. We often get the sense that we are alone in feelings of faithlessness…that’s a lie, my friends. I know I’m not the only one, and I hope you know you aren’t either. Fear not, loved one, Jesus stands in the gap for us— including in our faithless moments. 

Yesterday I was full of faith,
but today I have none. 

Yesterday I laughed in the face of anxiety, 
In wonderment at how far I’ve come.

And today my faith is gone,
My steadfastness long forgotten.

Instead of “Get behind me, Satan” 
My heart gasps for breath and begs for mercy. 

Sleep rest can only carry me so far. 
My stomach still hurts when I wake up. 

Being alone. Being together. 
Being happy. Being sad.

Being settled, 
And Never being settled again. 

If I could I would fix it. 
I would make it go away. 

I would make the world much, much smaller. 
Green paper would be just that. 

I am with you, God.
I am with you. 

Are you with me?
Are you going to stay? 

Are you sure we can do this? 
I’m not convinced. 

So here I sit. 
Breathe in, breathe out.

Fearlessness yesterday, 
Now gone away. 

But I’m still here.
And so are You. 

So there’s that I guess. 
Help me not forget. 

Neither Death, Nor Life

I believe. 

I believe in a God whose grace knows no bounds. That He Fathers a Family intended to be known by their Love. I believe nothing can separate me from that Love, that Father, or that Family. That even demons can’t separate me from that Love. Nothing in my past, and nothing in my future. No height nor depth.  

Neither death. nor life. 
Neither death, nor life. 

Every American I know is thinking about how we define life. These words overflow from our minds and our lips. We analyze the creation of life, who has the power to take it, and who has the right to protect it. We fight for life— we vote, we advocate, we cry out. And praise the Lord for life, the creation and the sustaining of it! I believe in a God whose grace knowns no bounds and that’s clear by His creation. 

But when I listen, I hear something else. I hear feelings of anger, and I sense a deep fear. I hear concern that the value of life is not shared by all. And I believe these feelings are sincere—but it’s hard to hear the genuine concern and fear among words like gross, horrific, and disgusting. 

I believe in a God whose grace know no bounds.
 I also believe in an enemy who will stop at nothing to prove that I am not in that Loving Family. That will use any good or bad thing to teach me that I am worth nothing, completely unloveable, and could not possibly be washed in the Grace of Jesus. 

I think of myself. My own story. My own gross, horrific and disgusting choices. And yet what I know is that I am loved by a grace that can’t be taken from me by anything! No past, no future. 

By neither death nor life. 
Neither death, nor life.

But when I look around I wonder… Would my Family in Christ continue loving me if they knew about my depths? About the demons at work in my life? About my past, and about my future? Would they remember that we are known by our Love? Or would they decide I’m gross and horrific. Would they decide I’m a them or would they still let me be an us

I am not pro-abortion, and that’s not a path I’ve had to walk. But I know I am no better than any choice made by any other. I am nothing without Jesus. I believe in a God whose grace knows no bounds.  All I have is Grace, and a love that can’t be taken away from me by anything. 

By Neither death, nor life. 
Neither death, nor life. 

In our messages of life can we not also remember the heart of the person reading and listening to our words of gross and disgusting? Can we not remember that we are to be marked by Love? That we are to fight to share Love and Grace no matter what. Just as I was given grace. Just as you were given grace. Please, keep advocating. Keep voting and keep speaking out. And then remember. Remember that gross people like me, and gross people like you are reading and watching and listening and looking for any sign of that family known by their Love. 

I believe in a God whose grace knows no bounds.
That He Fathers a family intended to be known by their Love.

Romans 8:38-39
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

John 13:35 
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

One Year

Tears.
So many gyros.
Running- for the tram, for the bus, for the metro.
A loss of one confidence, the birth of another.
Homesick and hurt.
Deep peace, and deeper joy.
Fears.
Fun.
Prayer.
Visitors- family, strangers, friends.
Getting lost.
Snorkeling.
Sunshine.
Sweat.
Teaching.
Playing.
Listening.
Leaning in.
Opening up.
Tea.
Coffee Shops.
Bakeries
Sleeping.
Baths.
New friends, friends so far away.
Hard news.
Happy news.
Pain and healing.
Lots of ancient things.
Facetime, texts, videos, messages, calls.
Freddo Cappuccinos.
Class.
Laughs.
Exhaustion.
Soul tired.
Fear.
Longing.
Acceptance.
Change.
Love.
Joe.
Jesus.

Today is the day we left the US last year. I’m staying with my two honorary nieces and one nephew this week— just me and them. So I hadn’t thought much of the day in itself… but those sweet kids came in my room first thing this morning and gave me cards they made… and my mind ran. I thought of all the things above. A blur of joy and pain that I could have never ever imagined. I didn’t know I could love two worlds so much. I wish I could share my worlds with each other more than anything. I hugged those sweet kids this morning and cried. On one hand I can’t imagine having not been here with them this year… but on the other hand I completely can because I’ve missed the lives of all the people I loved before one year ago. The reality that it’s possible to love someone so much— maybe even more— that you never see and hardly talk to is mind bending. It doesn’t feel like a possible love, but it is. Also before moving here I wouldn’t have thought it was possible to feel loved by someone that doesn’t know that much about me… but I can. I have friends here that care about me despite me being completely different from them and that’s a love I’ve never experienced. And it’s so special. So, American friends and family, thank you. Thank you for making this year possible in every way. For your support, your prayers, your encouragement, and all the endless effort put in to inconvenient communication. For helping us move, and sending us off with love. For being faithful when our faith is lost. Greek friends, thank you for welcoming us and loving us. For celebrating our weird holidays, and explaining wedding invitations. Thank you for inviting me to your home. Thank you for helping me find stores, and explaining what I should wear. For helping me with my homework, and allowing/encouraging me to teach. Thank you for sticking with conversations even though English can be exhausting. Thank you for letting me see your heart, and thank you for seeing mine. Greece, I love you. America, I’ll always love you too. I love you both… and I like that.

Let Yourself Be Loved

       At this phase in my life I don’t have very many people that I interact with on a daily basis that know me well enough that if they see that I’m upset they will push in a little bit. There was a time in my life where that included pretty much everyone I interacted with on a daily basis and it felt like I couldn’t leave the house unless I was ready to be asked about every emotion I had. To be fair, I usually wear my feelings on my sleeve, so it’s not that hard to figure out how I’m feeling. But, when all the sudden all the people you see often are new in your life, the number of people that can tell how you’re feeling the second they look at you, and then feel they have the right to actually ask about it shrinks to a handful pretty quickly. It’s easier to hide when things aren’t well. Which is initially a relief, but after the fact leaves me feeling pretty alone. You know what I mean? That moment when you are determined to hold it together, and prove everything is fine, and then you succeed… it feels awful because in reality everything is not fine and you just successfully deceived people that actually care about you. It’s not a good feeling in the end.  I cracked a bit in front of some of my people that do know me here the other day and I had no idea how they would react. I wasn’t sure if they really knew why I was crying, or believed my initial explantation… and I was pretty embarrassed to say the least. It was not one of those moments where extra expression felt all that helpful. But that moment that comes when your shield cracks, despite your best efforts, provides and opportunity for your people to get the chance to love you when you’re ugly and falling apart. And in moments where you only have a few people that you give that chance, it feels so important when the moment comes. What will they do? Do they even realize they are special just by seeing me like this? Will they take the chance to speak love, or will they help protect the idea that we all have a shield and keep going?

       I love a quote by David Ausburger that says, “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person they are almost indistinguishable.”  I feel that so much. Even though I’ve been in Athens almost a year now, it often still feels pretty new. I’m not used to being the new person in any situation, so I’m really aware when someone here in my new life sits and looks at me, and asks questions, and actually listens. One of my people that saw me have a melt down came after me today and took the chance to listen and say, “I see you, I hear you, and I love you.” And that makes all the difference in the world.

       So. How are you? Are you feeling lonely? Are you thinking that you have to put on your happy face even when you’re sad? Well friends, do you feel lonely and unknown because you are hiding who you really are? We often lament not feeling known, or not feeling understood… but at the end of the day have we even given our people a chance? Have we shown any ounce of sadness or fear or pain? Have we let it be known that we need? If you are feeling isolated find a person who claims they love you, and actually give them a chance to do so. Trying to deal with things ALONE actually makes your feel MORE alone. And on the flip side— be that friend! When you see someone hurting— push in! Because what if you don’t? Don’t assume anyone else will. We love to look the other way…what a missed opportunity to love. The person will let you know if your love isn’t welcome… but I’m gunna guess that it is.

      That being said. The love of your people is great, but people aren’t everything. Having people that love you is so nice— and the whole point I’m trying to express is to share the love! Give it and take it—choose to let yourself be loved. But you can’t count on people to carry your pain, and you can’t count on yourself to carry someone else’s. But what’s so much more than that is incomparable love of Christ. Because He is always okay with the meltdowns. He is a really good listener, and always sees you. He can handle the pain, sadness, the hurt, and the anger (even when it’s directed at Him). Give your people the chance to love you—because that’s a good and beautiful thing… but don’t confuse the love of people for real love. The love of Christ is the love that never leaves us or forsakes us. Good grief sometimes it’s confusing— I’ll give you that. But it’s real, and it’s here for you. I’m so thankful for my people, my παρέα, and my Lord.

Enjoy

It’s a big day for me. I have a lot to process, a lot to feel. Today I celebrate 8 years of not weighing. I used to weigh obsessively, literally losing sleep worried about what I had eaten that day.  One day I decided enough was enough, and that my weight was not something that was going to define me anymore. So I decided I would try and go the rest of my life without ever weighing again. That was EIGHT years ago. That’s my entire adult life. I was a completely different person then… and that has never felt more true than this year.

Eight year ago I was a freshman in college, I hadn’t become friends with Joe yet, I lived in Athens, GA, and I drove a car that I had to get jumped every time I started it.  Now I’m married, I live in Athens, Greece, and I haven’t driven a car in 6 months.

One of the main convictions I have against weighing is that it turns my focus onto myself, and parts of my body/life that I want to control or change. And that breeds ungratefulness. That only leads to taking for granted not only walking, running, talking, hearing, and seeing—but also breathing, having a heart that beats, and having a body that digests my food. Our bodies are incredible… when I think about all the little parts of my body that have to work together that I have absolutely no control over in order to keep me alive—it’s astounding! And yet I have spent years of my live obsessing over things to not like about the body that God gave me.

I wish I could say that cutting out knowing how much I weigh solved all of this for me… that now I never feel self conscious. But of course, that’s  not true. But what a journey it has been for my perspective to change. 19 year-old me, and 27 year-old me have experienced much different things.

The one year anniversary  of loosing my dear friend Sanna to stomach cancer is coming in a couple weeks… and I miss her so much right now. She cheered on the idea of not weighing myself, and was a picture of graceful confidence I admire so much. I remember being with her in her last days… her stomach couldn’t digest her food the way it was supposed to and her body paid the price. I remember sitting with her and feeling so much shame over every meal I had skipped, every bite that I hadn’t enjoyed because I was too worried about the calories it might add… and here was my friend, dying because her body couldn’t digest anything. Being with Sanna in those days changed me in many ways. Hearing the things she reflected on, the things she thought about that week… how she looked was never going to make the list, that’s for sure.

The longer I live the more and more I realize how little my life is about me. Every day I get to interact with Greek moms who stayed up all night with their sick kids, and then spend all day helping other people. I get to be with refugee women who are fighting for their lives by giving up everything they have ever known for the hope of something better for their families. I get to be married to my sweet husband. I get to call my family and friends in the US whenever I want. I get to make new friends. I get to dance at parties. I get to be bad at Greek. I get to try and keep my plants alive, and totally obsess over frothing my milk for my new daily cappuccino addiction. I get to do yoga, and listen to music. I get to feel the sun, and I get to talk to Jesus. I get to be loved, and I get to love others. I get to be a daughter of God.

Because of that I get to not worry about my weight. I get to enjoy the delicious food my new country has to offer. I get to be free. Jesus wants so much more for me then to miss the joy of all the things He has given me to love.

Friend, if you are right there…. in it right now… caught in the lie that you aren’t enough, that you don’t measure up, or that you don’t matter— please let me say—you matter to me, and you matter to Jesus. Enjoy the life, and the body that God gave you, because why not? This is life, and we are alive. So let’s be free to enjoy it as much as possible.

The Power of Words

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I spend at least 12 hours a week studying Greek. And yes, I’ve learned some-
and am thankful for what I’ve learned but WOW is it tough. I’ve always felt like I was pretty good at language learning, but learning Greek is like getting hit by a truck of language learning pride. It’s a complicated language, but of course not impossible and we are making progress “slowly- slowly” (as the Greeks would say). It’s remarkable the total triumph I feel if I am able to have a 3 sentence exchange with a stranger that we both understand. I’m able to trick people for about that long and then they carry on about something, my plan crumbles, and I have to confess I can’t actually understand them. What happens next is totally a learning process as well.  There’s 3 options. 1. They go, “Ah” And walk away. 2. They say “Ah” and then start speaking to me in English. Or 3. They say “Ah…” and then repeat the Greek message they are trying to get across more slowly, more loudly, and with more hand gestures. Option 1 crushes me every time. Option 2 is convenient sometimes, but often I get lost between being humbled and being humiliated. I have to admit to myself that they can speak to me perfectly in my language, but here I am in their country and  I ran out of words in 30 seconds.  Option three is delightful.
I have 2 friends that don’t speak any English at all: my neighbor, and my grocery store lady. But I love them and they love me and I’m so thankful for them. Neighbor cooks for me, makes sure I remember to take my coat, and always kisses me hello and goodbye. Grocery store lady is completely invested in my success in the grocery store, and therefore my livelihood/sanity. She walks the aisles with me showing me what’s on sale, and hands me the coupons for the day when I get there. Every now and then we can’t quiiiiite communicate what we are trying to say. For example its hard to act out “Which one of these is real butter?” or “Is this laundry soap or fabric softener” or “Do you know what Maple Syrup is?” If this happens she faithfully recruits someone to translate.
I just started volunteering to teach English at a support center for refugee women and children. The staff that work at the center are so special. They work so hard to create a safe and loving environment for these refugee women and children, and it is beautiful. They have developed something truly outstanding. I’m not even sure the staff at this support center realize how special they are. I’m so excited for the day when I can tell them, in Greek, how great of a jobI think they are doing.
I don’t have experience teaching adult women, or teaching English, so I was pretty nervous when the opportunity to teach one of the women’s classes came up. These women are Farsi and Arabic speakers, but they hope to become proficient in both Greek and English as they establish their new life in Europe. I tried to just channel what I thought was important so (no surprise if you know me at all) every lesson I make sure they learn at least one new feeling word. Happy, sad, confident, thankful, disgust, anxious, worried, excited etc. I ask them at the end of each class how they are feeling, or to use one of the new words in a sentence. They can make up a sentence about anything- they don’t have to talk about themselves if they don’t want to. But when these women express themselves… it is so very powerful. I am amazed by them. They say, “I feel confident I can learn English.” “I feel happy because I learn new words today.” “I disappointed my lawyer not help me.” “I frustrated yesterday I wait for 6 hours at refugee office.” “I feel anxious about war in Syria.” “I disgust the taliban.” They have such important thoughts and the second they learn new words so much of what they are trying to express comes together. One of the women asked me what “suffering” means. I’m not sure where she heard it. I explained the weight of that word and the intensity behind it. When I was done they were all quiet and one of the women put her arms out, gesturing to the whole class  and said. “We suffering. We all suffering.  All refugee, we are suffering.” Words are powerful.

Bath Time

Bath TimeMy favorite part of our new apartment is far and away the bathtub. I had no idea I even liked baths that much until the last place we stayed in the US didn’t have a bathtub, and I missed it so much.

I can sit and process what in the world is happening in our life. I can hear my neighbor enjoying her evening rock-n’-roll time, and I can hear all the dogs of the back balconies barking the night away. I can reflect on what we experienced that day, and reflect on how we ended up here.

It also makes me miss my mom. In the house we lived in when I was a child we had a claw-foot bathtub and my mom loved to take a bath. I’m sure it wasn’t every single day, but that’s what it felt like. I remember so clearly wondering how she could possibly enjoy sitting by herself for that long. Now I get it. It’s my happy place. Sometimes I’ll play music in the background, Storyhill’s Steady On is always on the list. That’s me and my dad’s song.

One part of living in Greece so far that I wasn’t expecting is how often I forget where I am. I grew up on a lake that seemed to never have enough water in it, and so the other day when it was raining cats-and-dogs here I immediately thought, “Oh well, at least this will be good for the lake.” Stuff like that happens all the time. I just forget. And that’s why I need bath time, so I can remember. I remember that almost two years ago God revealed that we would be coming to Greece, and then it happened. And 2.5 years ago all I was concerned about was walking down the aisle to my best friend, without a sweet clue what was about to happen. That is so important because just like I forget that I am in Greece, I forget that I will never have a grasp on this whole “life plan” situation. It’s so hard to carry the load of people asking us how long we are going to live here, when we are going to have kids, anything about our families in US and their timelines…. because believe it or not, much to my surprise, moving to Greece did not magically give me the ability to see or control the future.
As I sit and face that reality two things usually happen: 1. slight panic, and 2. total joy. All I can do is focus on today. That’s it, that’s all I️ got. That’s all God gave me.
The Greek culture in general is much better at the concept of enjoying the day. They don’t view time the same way US culture does at all. They are not in a hurry. Ever. I️ would say 9 times out of 10 when Joe and I go out to eat we are the last people to get to the restaurant, and the first to leave. They take their time, and they value a relaxed pace. Also, I am the only person I have seen with a laptop in a coffee shop. The Greeks coffee. Hard. But it’s unlike coffee shops I’m used to where everyone is desperately searching for an outlet, maybe with headphones in, trying to give the not-so-secret-signal to the world that they want to be left alone. Everyone is with someone else (maybe someone they came with, or someone they found there) and they are enjoying their coffee. There are no giant lines in order to get coffee to-go as fast as you can with as little human interaction as possible (to be fair the whole concept of waiting in an actual orderly line isn’t a thing here either, but that’s beside the point). It’s about the right now. It’s about who you are with.
I am so constantly aware of myself when I am moving about here. I stick out. Like crazy. I have blonde hair, blue eyes, and I am a giant…. so- people notice me. For the first time I have experienced what it feels like to consistently walk in to a room and everyone immediately notice me, size me up, and wait to see what in the world I am doing in their space. I don’t feel threatened or anything like that…. mostly I just sense people’s total confusion. When Joe and I walk into a coffee shop together everyone, with out a doubt, is going to notice us. Most of the time after the 10 second side-eye stare down, that’s it. But every now and then people will just ask, “What are doing here?”
That is a great question. And that is why I love my bath time. I need to think about that question every day…. because if I don’t, I’m going to forget.
Here are some pictures from our first month in Greece. One of my favorite things about Athens is that everywhere you look there is a scene telling a story.

 

 

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There are beautifully old pieces of Greece everywhere. This is on a hike just outside the city. Notice the really old wall Joe is looking at, with and even older pillar inside of it.

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There aren’t many trees in Athens, and even less trees with leaves. But there a few, and this one is a beauty.

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Every neighborhood in the city has its own weekly farmers market, and I love it.

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The Mediterranean diet is bliss. All the food is so fresh, including the bread. There are tiny bakeries everywhere and someone may go to a bakery several times a week for delicious bread.

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This is the sunrise view from Joy and Philip’s (our team leaders) apartment. The city is so dense, yet so close to such beautiful nature.

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This is taken through the blinds of our favorite coffee shop. It hardly rains at all here, but this day it had just begun to rain, and the woman was peering out her window just to watch it fall.

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Roasting s’mores with the youngest Kirkland, Abraham, who is cleverly using his Spiderman mask to shield his face from the heat of the fire.

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An egg and cheese biscuit is my favorite meal. As amazing as the Greek food is,  it’s a biscuit desert. However! Philip and Joy prepared this home-made biscuit for me, and I loved it. It’s amazing how far a sprinkle of familiar will go when I need it.

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Fruit from the farmers market. We bought 5 apples for 1 euro.

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The view from my back balcony. I’m a clothes line kinda girl now.