An Upheld Heart

It’s been 3 weeks since our feet first stepped foot on this Central Asian soil. I remember standing for the first time in this country and almost gasping to catch my breath.  So many days of preparation….so many moments of heartache….so many days spent praying that He would send us….so many victories….so much went into His preparation for us to finally land in this country.  It was surreal and it was joyful sorrow.  As my feet touched the earth of my new home, I witnessed the answer to almost a decade of praying send me.  I also witnessed a moment where all the years that we did not go, even though we knew we were called, were redeemed.  I was stepping off that airplane as a testimony to the Truth found in 1 Thessalonians 5:24…

“He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”

He had summoned me from the comforts of America, and I had responded with a heart of obedience.  It doesn’t matter that it was the middle of the night or that my baby was screaming.  It doesn’t matter that culture differences had immediately taken me by surprise, or that we were trying to contain over a dozen suitcases.  All that mattered is that my husband and I were walking in His will.  What a gift that moment was. What beautiful redemption.

Much of our time here so far is a blurry fog, full of emotional highs and lows. As the trauma-fog of the quite difficult flights over here, as well as the immediate cultural differences that shocked us to the core is beginning to lift, I am feeling a bit more capable at putting into words what our lives look like now. I ask that you bear with me.  Words seem few and far between and I feel so very inadequate at writing about this journey we are on.

I look out my window, and this is what I see. These apartment buildings house precious families that are deceived by a lie called Islam. It’s hard to wrap my mind around the fact that more than likely no one living in this photograph follows Jesus. A horrific eternity awaits them. We must tell them there is Hope…

Everything is different. More different than I ever expected. Sure this city is one that might top the charts when it comes to tourist destinations, but being a tourist and living somewhere are two completely different things. Spiritually speaking, this city is pitch-black darkness. Our small family is one flickering flame among millions who have never had their candle lit. The demonic strongholds that chain these covered heads and hopeless eyes to darkness breaks my heart. It’s overwhelming.  The call to prayer is eerily beautiful, yet joyless and lacking in hope.  As it blares through my open windows, my heart aches for these people to know Truth. We live in a conservative neighborhood, far from the touristy destinations that are so very crowded.  In our first days here, I would walk the streets and be stared at like I was from another planet.  I look different and I speak different and I act different.  I would attempt to greet women on the street in their language, only to receive very confused looks and whispers as they walked on by. I later learned that it was strange that I was talking to people I did not know.  I was told that you do not say hi to strangers as you pass them by.  I would walk into the neighborhood markets and be pointed at.  Beautiful, olive-skinned hands would cup around ears as whispers were exchanged.  I felt out of place and unwanted. I remember standing in the aisle with my iphone translator.  I tried to translate packages of spices, but my phone kept saying “network error.”  I could feel eyes staring at me and I felt like a child. It is so hard to not be able to communicate with anyone.  I fought hard to remember that He is with me as I battled a panic attack.  I left the store empty-handed and wiped tears of defeat from my eyes as I walked home.  Will I ever learn to cook here?  Will I ever fit in?

As the days here have turned into weeks, I am getting used to living in this fishbowl existence which is our new norm.  When we are out, we are stared at.  Our children are touched and pinched and stroked.  Strangers take pictures of our children and with our children, and there are times I wonder if this is what it’s like to be a celebrity who dodges the paparazzi in Hollywood.  We try to smile and let the curious strangers pet our daughter’s blonde hair, but as I watch my children flinch and whimper, and struggle to hide their faces, my heart is torn.  How much is too much?

Then there are the taxis.  We ride in taxis everyday and most of them do not have seat belts. As my husband sits in the front and tries to tell a driver who does not speak English where we want to go, I sit in the back with my young children who are in no way strapped down in a car seat.  As the drivers drive recklessly, I do my best to remain calm.  My stress level is high and I try with all my might to hold these tiny, precious lives in the seat as we make our way through crazy scary traffic.  My husband reaches around and squeezes my sweaty hand.  I close my eyes and realize that our lives are in His hands.  I hear my husband say “we hold our possessions loosely.  Let’s add our lives to that list, too” and I smile.  He’s right.  I struggle to let go, but eventually I do.  He called us here and our lives are in His hands.

My first weeks here were nothing but surviving. I am so very thankful for all the people He placed in our path that have helped us along the way. There were days of no hot water and there were days of no internet.  There were sleepless jet lag nights and there were transitioning kids. There were days of not knowing how to do laundry, cook, or call a taxi….and there are still days where I am at a loss on so many things that were normal everyday duties in America.  As all my energy was spent on simply surviving and making it to the next day without packing our bags and buying a plane ticket back home, He got neglected.  Yes, the very One who brought me here and is the Sustainer of my life, never left me, but the distraction of culture shock seemed to lead me astray.  Before I knew it, days had gone by and my Bible had not been opened one time.  As the Spirit convicted and my heart submitted, I found myself in the book of Psalms.

“Behold, God is my helper;
the Lord is the upholder (5564. סָמַךְ sāmaḵ) of my life.” ~Psalm 54:4

“For the righteous will never be moved;
he will be remembered forever.
He is not afraid of bad news;
his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.
His heart is steady (5564. סָמַךְ sāmaḵ); he will not be afraid…” ~Psalm 112:7-8

The Lord sustains, upholds and supports His children. He is my helper.  When I am scared while riding in a taxi, He upholds me.  When I watch my son ride off on the bus to school, He upholds me.  When I leave my daughters with a nanny for hours while I am in language school, He upholds me.  When I can’t figure out which bus to take home, He upholds me.  When I walk in bloodied streets after the animal sacrifices, He upholds me.  When men stare at me inappropriately, He upholds me.  All that is seen is unsteady, but when I look to the Unseen, I am steady.

… An upheld heart is a steady heart …

As I fought hard to spend time in the Word daily, I found my perspective changing and my focus aligning with the Kingdom.  It’s not when I get comfortable and learn how to live here that I should then spend time with Jesus, it’s right now in the thick of desperation that it’s so very important that I abide in Him.  When we abide in Him, true joy is found, no matter the unsteady circumstances that are all around us. These troubles are light and momentary, and someday they will pass away. These survival days need to especially be abiding days.  When we abide in Him, not only do we bear fruit, but we are steady, established, stable, and we do not shift away from HOPE…

“And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.” ~Colossians 1:21-23, ESV

“But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence. You don’t walk away from a gift like that! You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust, constantly tuned in to the Message, careful not to be distracted or diverted.” (The Message)

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” ~John 15:4-11

My days are tiring and my emotions can leave me feeling so unsteady.  But as I wake in the early morning hours, just before the sun rises and spend time alone with Jesus, I find everything I need for life and godliness. I sit with my Bible on our balcony and watch the birds swoop by like they do every morning, and I smile at the daily reminder He gives me that I have no need to worry. I am precious. I am seen. I am His.  I am steady and every stress that we go through as we adjust to life here is worth it.

God, my helper and the Upholder of my life, is worth it.

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” ~Matthew 6:26-27

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Thank you to everyone who has been praying for us, sending us messages, and encouraging us!  We are finally settling in and we are quickly falling in love with this city and the people!

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