Not Forgotten

She forgot to pick me up.

I stood on my pink ballet shoe tip-toes squinting through the rain that ran squiggly rivers down the front lobby window. Panic slowly rising up in my chest as tutus and hair-bows disappeared behind car doors and the carpool line shrunk to zero, zilch. And still she wasn’t there.

She forgot me.

And just as my throat squeezed tight and the tears threatened to spill over, that old silvery-blue Mazda pulled to a stop in front of me. And her brown eyes met mine with a huge smile and exaggerated wave.

Mom!

Dance Recital circa 1994

I stand on my grown-up tip-toes. Scanning the path I’m on. Searching through confusion. Sorting through my mind. Wondering at the plan.

Where is He?

I wonder if God’s people in the Old Testament felt the same way. Those 400 years between Old Testament and New Testament. I wonder if they thought, “He forgot us!”

But He hadn’t forgotten. He was still working. Matthew 1 shows the genealogy from Abraham to Jesus, including those 400 years! God was moving the whole time, preparing the way for Christ to come.

Just like my mother hadn’t forgotten. Just like she was moving forward through the storm, coming for me at the exact moment I was sure she was a million miles away. He is not still. He has not abandoned. He’s moving. Working towards making His name great. Working for my good and, if you are in Christ, for yours too. Accomplishing HIS perfect plan that was written before the world ever existed.

And just as I start to panic. His kind compassionate eyes meet mine. His warmth and safety engulf me. I remember His covenant to never leave me. His urge for me to trust Him echoes in my ears. His promise to perfect my weak, weak faith rushes to the forefront of my mind.

Father!


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The Wait

by Russell Kelfer

Desperately, helplessly, longingly, I cried;
Quietly, patiently, lovingly, God replied.
I pled and I wept for a clue to my fate . . .
And the Master so gently said, “Wait.”

“Wait? you say wait?” my indignant reply.
“Lord, I need answers, I need to know why!
Is your hand shortened? Or have you not heard?
By faith I have asked, and I’m claiming your Word.

“My future and all to which I relate
Hangs in the balance, and you tell me to wait?
I’m needing a ‘yes’, a go-ahead sign,
Or even a ‘no’ to which I can resign.

“You promised, dear Lord, that if we believe,
We need but to ask, and we shall receive.
And Lord I’ve been asking, and this is my cry:
I’m weary of asking! I need a reply.”

Then quietly, softly, I learned of my fate,
As my Master replied again, “Wait.”
So I slumped in my chair, defeated and taut,
And grumbled to God, “So, I’m waiting for what?”

He seemed then to kneel, and His eyes met with mine . . .
and He tenderly said, “I could give you a sign.
I could shake the heavens and darken the sun.
I could raise the dead and cause mountains to run.

“I could give all you seek and pleased you would be.
You’d have what you want, but you wouldn’t know Me.
You’d not know the depth of my love for each saint.
You’d not know the power that I give to the faint.

“You’d not learn to see through clouds of despair;
You’d not learn to trust just by knowing I’m there.
You’d not know the joy of resting in Me
When darkness and silence are all you can see.

“You’d never experience the fullness of love
When the peace of My spirit descends like a dove.
You would know that I give, and I save, for a start,
But you’d not know the depth of the beat of My heart.

“The glow of my comfort late into the night,
The faith that I give when you walk without sight.
The depth that’s beyond getting just what you ask
From an infinite God who makes what you have last.

“You’d never know, should your pain quickly flee,
What it means that My grace is sufficient for thee.
Yes, your dearest dreams overnight would come true,
But, oh, the loss, if you missed what I’m doing in you.

“So, be silent, my child, and in time you will see
That the greatest of gifts is to truly know me.
And though oft My answers seem terribly late,
My most precious answer of all is still . . . Wait.”

Oh, how this so perfectly describes my anxious heart not wanting to be still! I’ve been praying and asking and seeking. I’ve pleaded with the Lord to show me where He’s leading.  I’ve gotten frustrated that I’m seemingly forgotten. But He hasn’t forgotten. Oh restless, impatient, forgetful heart be still! Knowing the Giver is infinitely greater than knowing the gift.

Gates of Hades

Part 3 in The Austin Stone’s “From Israel” series (see Part 1 here and Part 2 here). Matt Carter delivers a sermon from Caesarea Philippi.

The Gates of Hades at Caesarea Philippi: This was the center of pagan worship in the first century. The pagan gods here were loved and worship and honored. The people of this time dedicated their lives to gods they though would endure forever. Yet, how familiar are you with Echo the Mountain Nymph? or Nemesis? or Pan?

This is the place Jesus took his disciples in Matthew 16 where he asked “Who do people say that I am?”

psst… click the four arrows-facing-out button on the bottom right of the video to make it full screen.

The Gates of Hades from The Austin Stone on Vimeo.

Thankfulness

I’m tired today. Like… soul tired. I’m just not feeling oh so joyful. I’m feeling down and annoyed and frustrated and “leave me alone”-like.

I know, I know…  I’m being a Negative Nancy

Oscar the Grouch…

Ebenezer Scroodge…

{insert other ridiculously negative life-hating characters here}…

And though life is not as easy as pie, though circumstances aren’t helping my crabbiness… it’s still not an excuse to give into the way I feel.

Instead, we {and by we I mean me} are going to take this opportunity to be thankful because really… what is there not to be thankful for when my Savior and the Creator of the universe loves me??? When He loves me so much that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, {nor bad days, nor diminishing bank accounts, nor ungrateful co-workers, nor eating sandwiches for 7 meals in a row, nor headaches, nor loneliness, nor sleepless nights, nor weariness} nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from HIS love?!? {Romans 8:38-39}

His love is enough. It’s MORE than enough. So today I will choose to be thankful. I will choose joy.

Just two things in my life I'm beyond thankful for: My great-grandparents. These two amazing people in my life have poured themselves into me: encoured, loved, hugged, baked cookies, made carboard box castles, supported me, taught me to swim, and breathed scripture by the way they've lived their lives. Thank you Lord for using these two incredible people to show me what it is to be your hands and feet.

Garden of Gethsemane

Part 2 in The Austin Stone’s “From Israel” series. Matt Carter delivers a sermon from The Garden of Gethsemane.

Holy cow… if you like the first video (seen here) you will be BLOWN away by this one. Garden of Gethsemane: the place Jesus prayed hours before he was crucified. He was right there! Right there! Can you even comprehend that?!? This is where our Savior spent his remaining time before dying for the sins of the entire world! I’m blown away.

psst… click the four arrows-facing-out button on the bottom right of the video to make it full screen

The Garden of Gethsemane from The Austin Stone on Vimeo.

New

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. “

Isaiah 43:18

So encouraged by this today. So humbled that MY God makes things new. So amazed that HE can make water spring up in the desert. He can make a path where there was none before.

Keep looking forward, keep pressing on.

HE makes all things new!

This Moment

This moment is painful. This speck of time I want so desperately to escape. Go backwards. Go forwards… any moment but this one. Any time but now.

The enemy is whispering. . .  Failure. Unloved. Weak. Alone. Hopeless. Broken. Unwanted. Forgotten.

His lies. . . Run. Escape. Don’t press into Him. He has no plan for you. Run. Escape the pain. Run. Run. Run. . .

I want to be there, last summer, laughing on the beach and so full I thought I might burst. Two years ago… basking in the Iraqi sun with my Kurdish friends singing Happy Birthday. That college night  surrounded by the family I chose, up until 3AM and laughing so hard I cried. At that gymnastics meet I won, grasping the plastic “gold” medal, my most treasured possession. I want to be 5 years old again, when scraping my knee was devastating, yet all I needed was to be wrapped in their arms to know my world was perfect again.

I don’t want to be in this second. I want it to be next year, my heart more mended, my pain more forgotten. Want it to be that moment when all the puzzle pieces fit and He says look daughter, this is why I created you to be you – this is why I brought you through. I want it to be my wedding day. Want it to be the day I become a mom. I want it to be tomorrow. Next week. Next month. But now? This now I just want to escape. This now-ness is a heavy blanket crushing me – I want to be out from under it.

But now is what I have. This moment is where I grow. Here is where He loves and shapes me. This second is where He picks me up, draws me closer, and urges me to trust.

This moment I choose to give up control. This second I choose to take comfort in El Roi,  my God that sees. This moment is where He has me and so this is the moment I will take shelter under His wings.

Blessings

Blessings – Laura Story

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know the pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
It’s not our home

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching(s) of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise

Help me to choose to trust You. Your plan. Your promises. Your guidance. Your love. Your portion.

You, Lord. . . You are enough.

Special Update #3

I have nothing but good news to report and I am in awe that this is the case. I wish I had words to describe the awesomeness of God but really there are none sufficient.

Ruzhan (the young girl) is back in her village in Iraq. She is doing incredible and really is as good as new. She called the other day to thank PLC for making it possible for her to receive surgery.
Mazyar (3-year-old boy) is now back home in his village as well! The doctors are astounded at his recovery. Just days after surgery he was running and playing in the hospital courtyard. As much as the nurses tried to slow him down as a precaution, Mazyar kept skipping around. Nothing could slow him down. He is now reunited with him mother and other family.
Mohammad (11-year-old boy) had a really tough week. The doctors were very pleased with his surgery as he received a full heart correction from FIVE heart defects! They were very hopeful until they realized he was having difficulty speaking and eating in ICU which left him malnourished. They feared he had Tapia’s syndrome –  a congenital problem affecting the vocal chords, causing atrophy of one side of the tongue and the opposite side of the vocal chords. Mohammad received an MRI and neurological exam revealing that his brain was completely normal! Praise the Lord!  He was sent back to Sulaymaniyah yesterday! Although he will use a temporary feeding tube until he is able to eat solid food on his own, the doctors are confident he will be 100% in a few weeks.
Daryan (4-mo-old baby boy) is still in ICU in Turkey. Despite all odds, this tiny baby survived surgery! He was doing very well for the first days in ICU, but as soon as the nurses extubated him, Daryan’s pulmonary pressures skyrocketed. If a child dies post-heart surgery, it is usually because of high pulmonary pressures. They had to reintubate him and put him on a treatment of nitrous oxide which is suppose to dilate his blood vessels and therefore lower the pressure. Although he has been on the treatment almost a week, his pressure is slowly but steadily decreasing! Where there was very little hope in the beginning, doctors are fairly confident that Daryan will pull through. What a miracle!
Pray for these children as they continue to recover. Although Daryan is improving, he is not completely out of the woods. Pray for healing. Daryan’s mom is alone in Turkey. This is the first time she has been away from home and in an unknown culture hearing an unknown language. All of these factors plus the constant fear and anticipation that Daryan will not make it, have taken it’s toll on this young mother. Pray that the Lord would engulf her in peace and comfort.
 In other news, God has completely provided the money for me to stay in Iraq until December!!! WOW! Time and time again God provides for me in ways I can’t even understand. God is good and SO worthy to be praised!

Iraq Update: Chwar (4) + a VERY special announcement!

Greetings friends. I’m so sorry it has been so long since I’ve updated you on the happenings in Iraq. This post is way overdue!

The past few weeks have been a whirl of planning, projects and the beginning of the end of the summer. My main projects have been graphic design work for some local fundraising here in Suly and helping plan a banquet for all of the children who have had heart surgery this year. I have so much respect for event planners now! I also forget how not knowing the local language makes things at least twice as complicated. One of the other interns and I had planned to get the invitation for the banquet designed and printed one morning last week. My initial thought was that it would only take us one hour, maybe two at tops, because of how long it takes in America. Two hours soon turned into an all day affair! We didn’t factor in that our invitations, written in English, would not be understood by the Kurdish families (cue: slapping my palm against my forehead). We met with PLC’s translator and had him translate our invitation. Then I realized… I don’t have an Arabic font on my computer! So, we had to find a place to type it up for us. Hold on though, we have to find a place to type it up for us with someone that speaks ENGLISH. After about an hour of searching, we finally found an internet café that could type and print up a copy of the invitation text in Kurdish. Whew, this part took the majority of the morning. The afternoon was spent with our translator scouring the Bazaar for a print shop that would print on cardstock. Two hours and a few cantaloupe smoothies later… we have our invitations. Success! (update: after all was said and done and printed and delivered to families

we realized somewhere in the process the time and date of the party were left off the invite. Haha oh Iraq!)

It seems that lately PLC has run into some major walls. As the saying goes, when it rains it pours.

Issue number one… Buy Shoes Save Lives is one of PLC’s main sources of fund raising. In Kurdistan there is a traditional hand-made shoe that most Kurds wear called Klash. Every part of the shoe is hand made, from the sole to the hand stitched top, taking approximately 30 hours for each shoe. (http://preemptivelove.org/bssl/klash/) Part of PLC’s vision for Iraq is to find local solutions for local problems. So, PLC buys the shoes from the local Klash makers and sells them all over the world. Proceeds go back into the community to fund the heart surgeries. Until about two weeks ago, the general consensus was that the entire shoe was made here in Iraq and for about 5% of Klash shops, we’ve recently discovered, this is true. However, 95% of Klash makers in Iraq only make the hand stitched top and import the sole of the shoe from Iran. Even this would be okay besides the fact that it is illegal to import anything made in Iran to the United States. So, we are back to the drawing board. BSSL is what PLC was founded on in the beginning and it is not a part of the organization PLC wants to loose. Pray that PLC is able to figure out a solution to this problem.

Issue number two… The Patrol. All 7 long term staff of PLC share one vehicle… a Nissan Patrol. When they were first looking for a car to buy, they needed something inexpensive, reliable and a vehicle that could easily travel the uncertain Iraqi terrain. They were blessed with the Patrol. However, recent news has revealed the origin of this beastly car. During Saddam Hussein’s rule in Iraq, the vehicle his soldiers used was one that was durable and reliable… yes, the Nissan Patrol. Almost every Patrol currently in northern Iraq belonged to the government prior to Hussein’s downfall.  After Saddam was captured, people literally raided all of the government property and took what they wanted, then sold it. So, BASICALLY that means PLC, without knowing, probably bought a stolen car. Legally, this car still belongs to the government even though it was bought and paid for by the Preemptive Love Organization. PLC is currently seeking out how in which to gain legal ownership of the car, but until then the Patrol could be taken away from us at any time. If that weren’t enough, a new law was passed that makes it close to impossible for foreigners to obtain driving permits. Again, PLC is trying to legally find a way in order to get licenses but until then, our Kurdish translator will do most, if not all, of the driving. This puts a major damper on many operations.

Issue number 3… We have been working most of the summer on a local advertising campaign called Tip Jars. The idea was to put money boxes at local grocery stores with a huge poster about our organization in a way to increase awareness and community involvement. We got the money jars built. I designed the posters. We sent the posters off to the print shops. We got the grocery stores okay. Then, found out that we need a license?!? A license to put up a poster and glass box in a store. Doesn’t make sense to me but I guess it’s a good idea to follow the law of the land. The license will take several months to obtain, as it seems all things take time here. It’s good that the campaign will be put into action at some point. Just much much later than we expected.

Issue number 4… At the end of the summer (aka about a week) PLC will be changing completely as far as staff go. Not only will the interns be heading back to the US, most of the PLC team will be leaving as well. As PLC has grown and funding increases, the ability to send more kids to surgery is upon us. However, each time a group of kids is sent to surgery, someone from the full time staff has to go along with them to Turkey. Costs increase with sending PLC staff and throws the organization off balance when someone is out of the office for two weeks up to a month. PLC has decided to relocate one couple to Turkey to set up a base there. It is going to be really good to have a base in Turkey since the actual surgery is in Istanbul. So, one couple will be leaving Iraq along with the interns in a very short period of time. Another PLC couple will be heading back to the US in the fall to have their first baby! And PLC’s physical therapist will most likely be moving to another city in Iraq for various reasons. So, this leaves one family to run all of the organization by themselves in the fall. I know that they are overwhelmed with this task. And not only that, but living in a culture that is not your own is difficult and draining and one needs community and support to be able to maintain sanity. Please be praying for all of the full time staff as their lives will be dramatically changing very soon. And on that note…

CUE SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT… drum roll please… I would like to announce that I, along with two other interns, have been asked to stay until December. The PLC team presented this to me several weeks ago and I have thought and prayed a lot about it. I don’t think my time is over here. I have began to develop amazing relationships with several Kurds here and I don’t think it is time for those friendships to come to an end. I think God has so much more planned for me here as I am starting to see hearts softened and trust built with people here. Also, the three of us interns could offer much help in running the organization and meeting with all of the families this fall when the one family will be here alone. This summer I haven’t been able to do as much design work for PLC as I’ve wanted and as PLC has wanted me to do. We have had many commitments this summer and most have them have seemed higher in priority than design work. This fall my commitment level would be so much different. One of the guys that is staying is a photographer and he and I will be working together on many projects. I know this is where I am suppose to be and have such a peace about being here. And so… I’M STAYING UNTIL DECEMBER!

With that comes many challenges that I wasn’t expecting when I left the states almost two months ago. First of all, I wasn’t planning on saying good bye to my friends and family for six months. I already miss them and miss being in Texas. I don’t think I have fully come into the realization that I will not see them until Christmas. I will not be with my family for the first time in my life during Thanksgiving. The reality of this all has not hit me yet and I don’t think it will until all the other interns have left. Please just pray for my heart that I will keep in perspective why I am here. Also, my Kurdish is HORRIBLE and I’m not just being modest. I have not learned as much of the language as I would have liked. I can barely communicate with people here who do not know English. Since I am staying, this has to change. I have to be able to talk to families that I will be going on visits to. I won’t always have the luxury of having PLC staff member to translate for me. I will be going on many visits with only the other girl intern, who doesn’t know Kurdish either. As soon as the other interns leave, the other two interns and I will have an intense few weeks on language learning with one of PLC’s local translators. Other languages do not come easy to me. I think I studied Spanish for about four years in school and now can only say a little more in Spanish than I can in Kurdish. Pray for grace for me to learn this language and an ability to understand and retain it. Also, funds are an issue. I will be working teaching English at a local institute during the fall. This job will pay for a lot of my living expenses but not all. I will also be teaching gymnastics to some of the American kids who live here. I am probably most excited about that job. It will help a little with expenses as well. But I will still be about $2500 dollars short. I know God will provide. He brought me here and He will not withdraw and leave me out in the cold. I know this and I am completely at peace that He will provide, but please pray that God will just guide wherever the money is suppose to come from.

I am so sorry that I haven’t updated everyone in so long. Things are going so well here. Some days are so easy and wonderful and I love it. Others are more difficult as it is so exhausting living in a culture I still don’t understand and frustrating to have such a language barrier. But God is so good. I have learned this in such a new and real way since being in Iraq. I have realized how much bigger his picture is and His will is than I could have ever imagined while living in my comfortable American bubble. More than anything I have done since being in Iraq, God has began changing me and my heart all the more. I am so so grateful to be here and to be able to experience amazing things half way around the world. I feel so very blessed that the Lord would bring me here and reveal Himself to me in such a new way and reveal the love He has for His people… not just for our country but the WHOLE world. Thank you for supporting me. There is no way I could be here without your financial support and especially your prayers. I don’t think I can say that enough. I wish I could bring you all here to experiencing what I am getting to experience.

Prayers:

Pray for Buy Shoes. Save Lives.

Pray for PLC’s vehicle situation.

Pray for the Tip Jar campaign.

Pray for each person that is leaving in about a week, the interns along with full-time staff. Pray for the staff and the interns that are staying in the fall that this transition will be good for everyone. That no one would get discouraged but that we would remember that God’s strength and power is made perfect in our weaknesses.

Pray for my heart as I try to refocus for the next few months. I don’t know what to think about it at all; I don’t know how to process it. I just know I’m suppose to be here. Pray for my family as well. I know that was hard for some of them for me to go to Iraq for the summer. I can imagine that me staying for four more months might be difficult.

Pray that I am able to learn this language!

Pray that my money situation will work out. That God will provide.

Thanks again for your prayers. You are such a big part of what God is doing in Iraq! I you are enjoying your summer as it is beginning to wrap up.

Be blessed!