Dare to give away your dream

“Twelve dirham.”

I picked eight dirham out of my coin purse. “Here you are.”

The produce vendor looked down at the coins in his palm and waited.

I stared at the eight dirham and felt the heat creep up my face as my mind replayed the Arabic word he had used. He had said, “tnash” and I had given him “tminia.” I had been in North Africa for six months and still didn’t know my numbers? Good grief.

Despite the countless hours of study, I was, in fact, the worst language student in all of history.

The sting of my disappointment worsened when I saw others fulfilling my dream. While I plodded through language school, feeling like a daily failure, I was forced to watch other students blossom. It wasn’t fair.

Seeing others fulfill my dreams made me insecure and envious.

During my time in North Africa, I heard of a man and his wife who had a vision similar to mine. But because of circumstances outside of their control, they could not move overseas. Instead of being jealous and closing up their heart to this dream, they sent me a donation to carry on with my work. Several hundred dollars to someone who was living out their dream. Their heart was for the dream rather than who was fulfilling the dream.

Thousands of years ago, King David realized that he was living in a palace while God dwelt in a tent. He decided to honor God by building a gorgeous temple. It was his dream, and a worthy dream at that. But God said “no.”

Instead of pouting, King David helped to plan and gather building materials. He even blessed his successor to complete the God-given privilege of building the temple.

So when you see other people being or doing what you would like to be or do, don’t soothe your pride with the camaraderie of other envious people around you. Share your dream with others, even if they are better at it than you are. But beware: it’s much harder to give away your dream than it is to give it up! Trust me; I know because it’s a lesson I’m still learning.

Casting all your anxieties on him

When she told me goodbye, my roommate gave me a stack of envelopes- one per month until my birthday. There were two photos in the May envelope. One was a peaceful mountain landscape… with an ominous quote:

“You will never be completely at home again. Because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”

The other photo was of an overloaded North African donkey. On the back of the photo, my roommate had written “Casting ALL your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)”

I immediately posted both on my refrigerator. They belonged together.

My life is strange right now- the sensation of not quite belonging anywhere. The struggle of trying to remember exactly where you are and why you are there. Sometimes the struggle even includes trying to remember who you are. Re-entry is somewhat like waking up from a vivid dream. Initially, there is such a lostness.

But He is capable and willing to carry my anxieties. And more than that, He cares for me.

Aisha- part 4

She lost her job. Just when things had been going well. Just when little by little she had been saving up to furnish the tiny salon. She had talked of buying an oven. She had talked of the circumcision party she wanted to hold for her son in April. Now that was gone. There were no more dreams because there was no more money.

Her husband was working a little, she explained, but she never saw the money.

“It goes for cigarettes and coffee with his friends at the coffee shop.”
“Praise God he doesn’t use your money for that!” I reminded her. But I still hurt for her.

Eventually she found work two days a week. Enough to survive, but not enough to live.

It seemed that every time I entered her home, there was a storm brewing between mother and daughter. Today was no exception.

When I had reached Aisha’s house, things were calm. We sat in the salon, talking and watching Bollywood. God’s grace bridged the language deficit. We talked about life, about marriage, about her children, about her job hunt.

Her daughter, Soukaina, disappeared to be with her friends. A long time later, Aisha hollered across the rooftops of that tiny, sunken neighborhood: “Soukaina! Soukaina!” Soukaina emerged from her friend’s house and soon thereafter two young men followed.

To a mother with no education, a girl’s purity and family honor are the only things worth living for. There is no other option. And with her husband generally absent, Aisha is the guardian of her daughter and, essentially, the family honor.

I just wanted to hide. I had already had an encounter on the street with a man who left my blood boiling in his wake. And upon arrival to Aisha’s neighborhood, I had an argument with the taxi driver whether or not it was safe for me to walk the ½ block from the taxi stand to Aisha’s house. I didn’t want to get involved in anything else, for goodness’ sake!

Aisha offered me a way out: to go with her to buy sweets for the afternoon tea.

But God said, “Stay here with Soukaina.”

So I stayed and listened to the 16-year-old, heart-broken side of the story. Then I touched her hot and teary face and wondered what kind of life lay ahead of this girl. What opportunities did she have? What opportunities would she have?

My own heart felt achy for the women of the family, even as we sipped syrupy tea and I made boats, airplanes, and trains out of each bite of cookie for Aisha’s 2-year-old son.

Aisha walked me to the taxis, telling me again and again how “dear” I am to the family.

I responded with the appropriate reciprocal response, but I really meant it. Aisha will always be dear to me. As we turned out of the neighborhood, the evening sky came into view with bright pinks and oranges. It was so breathtaking I started to cry from the bittersweet mingling of Aisha’s pain and God’s faithfulness.

We miracles that don’t look like miracles

Not long ago, someone told me, “Every story is beautiful.” “Of course!” I probably responded. All stories were beautiful, but some stories were fascinating: dreams and visions, persecution, bold statements of faith, etc. Those were the stories that captivated me. They still do.

But that someone was right by putting all stories on the same level. Because, as he went on to say, “God loves you just as much as He loves anyone else.” Right. Of course, but–

But it’s true. My redemption story is just as miraculous and beautiful even though I haven’t “stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword” (Heb. 11:33-34). In fact, many of the people who are in the Hebrews “Hall of Faith” lived lives of simple obedience rather than lives of excitement.

Those exciting stories are still fascinating. However, my challenge this week is to thank God for the redemption stories of the “normal” people around me.

Whether exciting or not, our stories are miraculous.

Relaxed inside

A North African friend was searching for the English word “peace.” The word eluded her. Instead of asking for a translation, she created my new favorite collocation: “relaxed inside.”

Isn’t “relaxed inside” a beautiful description of peace? That inner knowledge that one’s slate is erased of error. That gentle cleansing after destruction of guilt. And the confidence that at the end of our life struggle is heaven.

Peace

This peace tonight
Surpasses understanding.
Fresh. Gentle.
A cool summer sunset
That settles in naked nothingness
Around my shoulders
Like slippery sheets.
A completed dream
That leaves me thirsty,
Arising in the blackness
To pray.
And when sleep comes again
There is only God.

Tricked by hope

As North Africa heats up, people are disappearing from the streets to hide in their houses with drawn shades and fans.

But there are some who cannot hide.

Like the homeless sub-Saharan African man reclining in the shadow of a doorway. The despair in his eyes tore my heart.

Even worse is seeing that same despair in the face of a child. Like today, when I passed a family: a disabled father and a young mother with a toddler strapped to her back. The boy’s face was stricken with hopelessness.

I have so much. And I’m not talking about money. I’m talking about hope. Even in the valley, I can still see the mountain.

But what about them? What do they see beyond the next moment? What would cause them to lift their heads?

Tricked by hope

The child is weeping
because there is nothing,
not even a horizon.

His mother's heart will not hear
because it won't
be tricked by hope.

And every man's disrobed dream
sinks
in the mire of the present.

Life is nothing
and beyond nothing is the dark
that dogs every moment.

Do we hear them?
They're clawing at the gates of hell,
believing there's nothing better.

Refugee

Specially selected Friend,
Can you find a way to live?
To take advantage of every day
and be the first to make a home
inspired by your history?
To dare to dream of beauty?
To save your child- your perfect baby-
and to offer the gift of security?
Can you manage
to live better next year?
And is there a way to forget
this black adventure?

This is a work of appropriation (the art of intentionally altering or borrowing words from a pre-existing source). Pre-existing source: a department store’s Black Friday website page.


Photo by Julie Ricard on Unsplash

Why am I blogging anyway?

My plan was to start a blog when I moved overseas. That way, my family and friends could tune in to my exotic adventures as I trotted the globe. But what am I waiting for? Every day holds an adventure. Sometimes it’s the little things, like talking to an immigrant in their own language. Or sometimes it’s the big things like answering the unsettling question “What should I do with my life?”

My family teases me about how often I ask that question. But is there only one best option? When I was 16, I knew that by 28, I would have the job I loved most in my heart of hearts. Looking back now, I smirk at my idealization of age. I’m 28 and the only clear direction I have is God’s call: “Glorify Me.”

But how? Through the last years, I’ve been down many paths, always with the dream of settling down and being fulfilled… like most people seem to do by my age. But what if “Glorify Me” were not a precise career plan, but a heart attitude?

What if our sense of fulfillment had everything to do with our heart attitude and little to do with our place in life? Wouldn’t we stop working so hard to make our surroundings perfect and learn how to praise no matter where we were? I’m rambling; if I had everything figured out, I wouldn’t feel so vulnerable and imperfect now.

Guess what! God calls the imperfect! Think about it. Did God wait until Abraham was perfect before He called him “to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance”? If he had, Abraham never would have gone out, “not knowing where he was going,” an act of great faith (Heb. 11:8). What about Rebekah? She was called to be the wife of Isaac, but was she perfect? Was David? Esther? The disciples? Paul? Know this: God will not wait until you are perfect to call you. If you’re a perfectionist like me, that sounds catastrophic. We have great plans, but only after we have whittled ourselves away to the pulp of our own perfection. However, the point is not that we be perfect, but that we become a work-in-progress, a living sacrifice.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

(Rom. 12:1)

This is our calling.


Photo by Z on Unsplash