Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mt. Sinai and the Egyptian Desert: Wandering for 40 years

The time is here: A journey from known to unknown. We have left Turkey and have arrived in Egypt. We passed from the African side in Cairo, under the Suez Canal to the Middle Eastern side of Sinai and then the Red Sea in Dahab, Egypt.

Monday night at 1am we rolled into Sinai in two small, cramped, sweaty vans. We unstuck our bodies and walked sleepily to the large outdoor tent where the staff of Desert Fox Hostel greeted us with cups of hot tea heated by the fire. Tuesday I wandered around the desert to the oldest continually used monastery in the world, St. Catherine’s. That night the group of us set out with our daypacks to climb Mt. Sinai. I thought it would be a quick trip up, but it took just over two hours, mostly in the dark. I lit a small path with my head lamp, in between a cliff and a red mountain. Strenuous though it was, the trek proved to be more than worth the exhausting exercise. After the 752 “Steps of Repentance,” the final steps up to the top, we had a worship service while staring at the stars and down to the distant desert sands below. “When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord settled on Mt. Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain. To the Israelites, the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain.” [Mt. Sinai, also known as Mt. Horeb, is where Moses and Elijah met with God]. We beat the crowds who come for sunrise and had the mountain to ourselves for a few hours, but tourists poured in around 4am. I woke up to headlamps peering over from above to our mats and sleeping bags on a landing below, while foreign languages met my tired ears.

I slept a bit longer till the sun started to rise around 6am. The sight was slightly less than I was hoping for, and I thought, isn’t that exactly how God works-not at all as expected. But a few minutes later a blazing ball of fire emerged from the foggy horizon, and the view was spectacular. Perhaps this is the same Consuming Fire.

An hour later we packed our bag and took a different route down the mountain. This new path took much longer than the first, and this time the sun was beating at our backs. I got to lead the group through some of the last climbs which was an amazing feeling. This morning, Thursday, we took three vans to Dahab. Immediately after dropping our bags into the hotel rooms we made the 40 minute walk to Lagona Beach. We managed to find a semi-private section of shore and water, which was crystal clear blue. The color changed lighter periwinkle or darker navy depending on the reef deep below. I swam to the buoy and floated in the crystals aquamarine water for a long time since the temperature and atmosphere were perfect for a relaxing afternoon. The Egyptian sun bore down but it was no match for the calm, salty clear sea: The Red Sea, where God parted the waters for the Israelites and Moses to walk safely across.

Friday morning, waves are rolling, never crashing, as though they possess the lazy beach personality and opt for a rest instead. A single person stands in these calm waves, white sun beating down to reflect the dark silhouette. This blazing fire creates a white-hot pathway across the sea to the neighboring Saudi Arabia. Its mountains are barely visible in the morning haze. Away from this path dark water churns, lost without a light source to guide.

After French toast and ice coffee for breakfast, we take a two buses and a two-hour ferry ride to Aqaba, Jordan. We will be staying near the entrance of Petra, Jordan

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Travel: a tough friend

I am learning to be patient with travel. It takes time to build a foundation of trust. It takes time to allow travel to have part of yourself.

Travel will not steal from you, but if you allow Travel your time, patience, effort, study, your relaxed and carefree mind, then Travel will surprise you.

Travel will host you, guide you, reveal new life to you. Travel can take your hand, give mysteries, explore the unknown and introduce you to many characters and friends.

Travel will give you tough love at times. He will teach you difficult lessons, he will show you fear and hesitation. He will show you beauty, and allow you to see pain and struggle.

But travel will always help you grow, and travel will never let you stay the same,

and that is the greatest gift of all.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sunrise:: Son, Rise

Ants are walking, scurrying along. They build homes for themselves, hardly aware of what exists beyond this life. They form, create, marvel at simplicity. It is enticing, that which they chase. They form perfectly straight lines, row after row. Summoning passion, these creatures march. In rhythm they sing, like fire they dance. There exists no knowledge of what is beyond these hills, these walls that surround. Even the pillars hide from men.

Light peeks over, as if with one eye open, winking in shy greeting. Slowly he rises, timed perfectly with passing seconds. My heart flashes, excited. More, I urge him on. Even these two hands connected raise in anticipation. The blaze continues his journey, two eyes open, both open wide. Colors wave gently in the dawn breeze, the ants continue onwards. The fire reaches over, extends his rays and proclaims his arrival. Houses illuminate, streets brighten, paths become visible. Hills are now intricately patterned, lovingly carved. A great design pours forth, and creation stops at the coming splendor. Feet cease to move, and the people fall down, in fear and awe of the incredible power that is portrayed, of the loving majesty that is now revealed.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ankara and Cappadocia, Turkey

Turkey has been a whirlwind of sights, sounds, faces and of course, homework. The team is still doing really well; we are growing in unity with a solid foundation every single day. Our morning devotions, worship and prayer have helped with all that is going on here.

The landscapes are beautiful; this weekend we chartered a bus to Cappadocia. It has been my favorite part of the trip so far because we climbed rocks and explored 5000 year old caves. Throughout the weekend, we discovered ancient churches, delicious food with rooftop views, sunsets on top of a castle and acoustic worship under the stars.

Saturday I rented a bike and rode around in the afternoon sun: a great and terrible choice. After an hour and a half I was exhausted, but I saw wild horses on slightly dangerous rocky roads. We are back in Ankara, having classes, studying Islam and the Qu'ran, and doing service projects with Iranian Refugees.

I am still learning a lot, and will elaborate when what is happening becomes more clear. Missing home but so thankful to be here in Turkey. Excited for what is to come, and please keep praying for me and the team.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Istanbul, Turkey

Agia Sofia, the most amazing example of Byzantine architecture and religious controversy

1 Lira is about 75 cents so each morning (and sometimes afternoon), I get fresh orange juice, just outside the hostel

The view from my window, on the fourth floor. Look to the left and you would see three beautiful, muted blue mosques in the distance

The hostel walls are painted a childlike yellow, blue, and white, with bright orange, green and yellow sheets on the beds. The doors are fire engine red, with yellow numbers. We are on the fourth floor, where winding staircases meet doors that overlook downtown Istanbul. The lights at night demand silence and awe, and the streets are littered with fruit juice vendors and meat sellers. Today, we walked down the tall cobblestone hill, across the bridge where fishermen were catching their lunch. We toured the cisterns, where 100,000 gallons of water flowed to the city in 500 AD. Then we went to Agia Sofia, and it was breathtaking. It was the largest cathedral in the world for nearly 1000 years. It was a mosque for 500 years until 1932, and now it is a museum.

The church windows faced Jerusalem, and when it was switched to a mosque, the center was shifted slightly to the right, for the pulpit to face Mecca. Old and New Testament mosaics vied for attention with the Arabic calligraphy elegantly displayed nearby. We had chicken and garlic sauce wraps for lunch, and attempted to do homework in the afternoon heat. I uploaded pictures from the morning, and then we went in search of Turkish coffee. Now I’m sitting on the bright orange blankets, desiring sleep but needing to do homework for tomorrow. We leave at 11:30 for Ankara. Good night, Istanbul.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Psalm 19:: Reviving to the soul

Tomorrow we enter the Muslim world. I'm not sure how I feel going into this. I trust that God has been preparing each individual on this team-before we even knew this trip would come about.
He knows my heart, my fears, my passions and joys, my failures, my mistakes, my worship and prayers.

I lay that all down at His feet.

Everything I know, everything I think I know, what I'm scared to learn and discover, all that I have gathered in my arms, I lay down.

May I become empty, in order to be filled with Christ-that I may know the power of him crucified, and the same power that raised him from the dead. This is living in me. That reality calms me. There is such comfort in knowing that God takes care of us.

"The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.
The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock, and my Redeemer,"
Psalm 19

God, this is my prayer and declaration, that you are good, you revive my soul and guide my path. I bind these up in Christ's name, Amen

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Heart Issues [in Moscow..]

God has been getting deeper into my heart lately. More and more, I notice the flaws and sinful nature in me. I see it, and it's something I want to change. I am impatient. I want life to happen on my terms, my schedule, and exactly how I think is best. But I meet opposition daily, and iron is sharpening iron as I take time to reflect on my weaknesses.

It is not a helpless feeling though, because when I am weak, God is strong within me. Christianity is all about God loving us in our weakness, and that is so beautiful. It is such an attractive part of the Gospel: Jesus died for messy people, who didn't have it all together. And that's me! And that's you! I love that God pursues us, even when we don't realize it, or when we doubt He is near.

I am also learning that God is often quiet. What a beautiful picture, because it forces me to silence my voice, heart and mind to focus on what he is speaking.

"I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body will also rest secure," Psalm 16:7-9

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Free write

Airports, expensive food, too-big backpacks weigh us down. Hearts full, excitement brimming, emotions run high. English-speaking, Spanish-listening. Airplane food, flights to somewhere and everywhere. Confusion, joy, fear, new friends. Knowing we will all change, but wondering how and when. Like an hour hand shifting slowly. A desire for independence, yet still confined. Rules still govern, perhaps for a purpose of safety. Wandering around, taking in buildings, noises, faces and food.

A middle step of culture, not too far away from home. At first, I didn’t want to leave, now I’m ready to go again. Somewhere else this time. No time to reflect, rest, write, pray. Too much but not enough. Judgments but too late. Learning my place, knowing I need to change but still stubborn. A mall, just like home. I wanted something different, why is it the same? United in faith, we sing the same song. Language divides, common praise unites.
A big building, old and not quite empty. We pile in, some speak too loudly-this place cannot hold us. I hide inside, wishing for more tact, a greater awareness. And so it is. I am changing. We cannot stay the same.

Flowers, cold, wind bites, rain falls. Jackets and shoes from another place. It was the wrong list. I resent it. But isn’t that a part of it all? Going beyond what I choose and control. We cannot stay the same. I fight it, yell inside that I won’t. Yet forcing me, I learn humility. Before it was impossible. I am in the ocean, trying to stand. Salt fills my eyes, soaks into my skin, coats my hair. I am pushed down-it is all lost. Everything I knew is different. I am in the fire. Purification, refined, cleaned. It is a long journey, and I just want to rest. There is peace in not moving. I just want to stand still. But where would that take me, except exactly where I was, exactly what I already know, exactly the same.

And I am pushed again. Straight lines. 200 words, a timed schedule. Do it because you will never grow if you stay the same. It continues, a tour bus, backpack full, one big line. Obtrusive, safe, controlled, yet different. Because who would want to stay the same. Never alone, never the same. Humbled, new, pure: changed.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Vladimir, Russia

Cautious adventure?

I am usually a fairly cautious person. I like sitting in coffee shops or bookstores, reading or writing, journaling or doing a devotion. But this trip presents such an opportunity for adventure. And I want to test that! Perhaps it's foolish or naive, but I desire to seek out independence. I want to take the bus downtown, to discover life, observe and accept the challenge of just figuring out how to get through.

Being in a new, foreign country presents it's own opportunities. Some of those are obviously dangerous-being out alone at night, going with someone you don't know, eating uncooked meat from a street vendor, downing a glass of unfiltered tap water.
Some are just dangerous enough to satiate my wanderlust.

But there's an opposition: a need and promise we made to be safe, because others are responsible for this group, and we have to be responsible for ourselves. Nothing foolish, nothing dangerous.
So I am left with this tension between discovering my limits, and remaining well within them..

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Thoughts in Russia, thoughts in English

Russian life has been a whirlwind. Our limited downtime is spent doing homework, reading, journaling, church time and sleeping. My heart has been going through so many things this past week, it is difficult to describe in a simple paragraph. I have met a few amazing individuals here in Vladimir, and God has blessed our group with awesome worship time and Bible study. Finding time and motivation for extra devotion time has been tough- I realize that should be my top priority, but time seems to go by quickly here.
Being sick these past two weeks has given me time to sit back and observe. I get to see how people interact; I am able to study people, without understanding their language. Gestures and expressions say so much.
I am caught in between finding contentment here, and having anxiety about life when I get back home. I feel pressure to figure out what I want to do with my life. What do I do after my undergrad at Concordia? I was hoping for a revelation while on this trip-maybe it will come, and I still have time. I'm nervous about resume-building, job hunting, interviewing. And for what? I don't even know that, which is scary. Part of me knows this place of desperation is exactly where God wants me to be-it means I have to rely completely on Him.
This morning Kaydee came to Emmanuel Church in Vladimir. My best friend from high school, we hardly manage to see each other in the states, but we are able to meet halfway around the world! She is here studying Russian at a language school. I am in awe of that direction, of her determination and strength. My heart aches for that. I feel as though God is saying Just wait. Just wait. Just wait. Don't look around at the things you think you want. Just be willing to wait, that's all, or you'll miss what I want to show you.
That should bring me peace, but my mind is anxious. Pray for a calm surrender and patience for God's timing and plan. I know the next steps-to live this trip to the fullest. Meet individuals, pray without ceasing, derive strength from Scripture and community. The same hands that hold the world hold my heart.

Harvesting potatoes! Fun at first...then very tiring!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Sunday we said goodbye to Buenos Aires. Our longest days of traveling included layovers in Santiago, Chile, New York and Helsinki, Finland. Other than a lack of sleep, a few pieces of missing luggage and a too-close encounter with the Finnish security guard, we made it to Moscow on Tuesday afternoon.

While standing in line for Customs, I met two people who were fluent in several languages. One girl from Armenia could speak six languages! This left me feeling inspired and dejected at the same time. The language barrier for us is much much greater here than it was in Argentina.

I have no background in Russian, and it took time to even learn the new Cyrillic alphabet. It is so frustrating not to be able to communicate a single thing--how grateful we are to be in this beautiful, freezing, rainy country that has amazing food, interesting people and an amazing history.

This got me thinking about my future.
  • What do I want to do with my life?
  • What is worthy of dedication?
  • Should I have studied something else, somewhere else?
I love traveling
This trip has been the most intense, vast, expedited learning experience I have ever had.

I am growing, changing and evaluating life and culture everyday.
I am living culture.
I pray that God would continue to speak to my heart what He has for my life, and specifically my occupation after college.
I desire to find the peace that comes from knowing I am in the perfect place.
I am just where God wants me.
I am in Vladimir, Russia, but I am home with Christ and my new friends that are participating in this University homeschool Around the World..