Friday, February 26, 2016

Given Away Too Soon

The bride is a vision in white.  Not ivory or champagne - white is methodically and very deliberately chosen for this occasion.  With a veil shrouding her delicate features, a lovely, blooming bouquet of garden flowers in hand, she walks toward her groom... alone.

There is no need for the preacher to ask, "Who gives this woman away?"  There is no father-daughter dance.  All of the usual customs and courtesies in this regard are without purpose.  Because the father isn't here.

I was never one to plan my wedding as a little girl.  Having gone through multiple divorces as a child, a wedding - while beautiful - was never something I looked forward to as much as feared.  It wasn't until I was an adult, baptized into the kingdom of God, that I began to see the possibility of marriage being a truly beautiful thing.  Even more, I found a surprising desire to be forever joined in marriage with a man God had picked out just for me.

It's truly remarkable how God can take something that was once so terrifying and disdainful, and turn it into something beautiful.  What God creates to be pure and lovely, man often distorts.  Then, in ways and for reasons known only to Him, He sometimes chooses to redeem it once again.  It's what he did for me.  I am so grateful and blessed to be marrying my fiancee in just over a month.

But come the day I marry, I will be like the bride in white, standing alone in front of my groom.  My father, while very much alive, will not be standing behind me.  He has his reasons, and while I disagree with them, I respect him.  It's a difficult thing to fathom, however, walking down the aisle alone and not being given to another man.  I was surprised to find that even though I never dreamed of my wedding day until a couple of years ago, two of the things I wanted most on that day were to have my father give me away, and to dance with him.  The symbolism behind it is important to me.  To belong, to be protected and cherished, encouraged and guarded by my father, and then passed into the protection and tender arms of my new husband.

Unfortunately, it occurred to me recently that my father, as loving and good-intentioned as he is, gave me away years ago.  After he and my mother divorced he re-married and soon after had two children.  I love all three of them - there is no "step" in mother, as far as I'm concerned I have two mothers, and I love my little brothers more than I thought I could love two little guys.  At some point after they were born, they became his second chance.  His new family.  I never knew it happened and I could never have seen it coming, and I don't think he intended for it to happen.  But at some point after that he gave me away.  He gave me away to life, to adulthood to fend for myself, long before I ever met my soon-to-be husband.

I write this as an appeal to all of you fathers, or any man looking to become a father.  When you become a father you're not just birthing a child.  You're not taking on a responsibility for eighteen years and then calling it good.  As a father you are the first person to represent God himself as the ultimate Father.  You are not only rule-maker, enforcer, playmate and guide to your child, you are the protector, defender, spiritual leader, and example. You stand as the measuring stick to which every man will be measured against for the rest of her life.  When your child becomes an adult, he or she will actually need you even more than they needed you as a child.  It will just be in very different ways.  Not less important, just different.

What kind of father will you be, or will you decide to become?  While I respect my father's wishes, I wish he would be there for me on this day I start a new life with someone.  Perhaps the hardest part about respecting his wishes, is letting go of the illusion that I was protected, defended and - despite my independence and free spirit - still belonged to him until he willingly gave me to someone else to do the loving, protecting and defending.

I thank God that though I may have been given away a little too early, into what seemed to be an unforgiving, merciless world, I was never without protection or defending.  I thank God that He is omnipresent, omnipotent and that his love is everlasting.  My dad wont be there on my wedding day to give me away, but I plan to walk down that aisle with a vision of God the Father standing by my side, handing me over to my husband-to-be saying, "I give this woman away."  Thanks be to God he never really gives us away, he just brings someone else into the relationship.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Love is...

An unconditional commitment to an imperfect person.

Always wanting what's best for someone even if that doesn't include you.

When you can't even find the words to describe how you feel about them.

Not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body.  No, don't blush, I'm telling you some truths.  That is just being "in love", which any fool can do.  Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.

A steady wish for the loved person's ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.

A decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise.

A feeling that can't be described by any words.

Just a word until you find someone to give it a definition.

Something you become.

When you give them true happiness, even if that means you're not a part of it.

When you accept a person with their failures, stupidities, ugly points, and nonetheless you see perfection in imperfection itself.

Madness.

Like ghosts, which everyone talks about and few have seen.

Being separated and nothing changes.

Compromise.

Having someone who accepts your past, supports your present, loves you and encourages your future.

Makes the ride worthwhile.

A fire.  But whether it's going to warm your hearth or burn down your house, you can never tell.

Something that awakens the soul and makes us reach for more, that plants a fire in our hearts and brings peace to our minds.

Friendship.

Like jumping off a really tall building: your brain tells you it is not a good idea, but your heart tells you, you can fly.

Begins at home, and it is not how much we do... but how much love we put in that action.

Casts you into the wind, sets you ablaze, makes you burn through the skies and ignite the night like a phoenix; it cuts you loose like a wildfire and you can't stop running simply because you keep n burning everything you touch!  I say that's a good love; one that burns and flies, and you run with it!

Patient.  Love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast.  It is not proud, it is not rude.  It is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.

You.


Love is the one thing we spend our entire lives looking for - even when we're determined to spend our lives alone.  We're created, designed and destined to love.  We were never meant to be alone, and never meant to live this journey without someone by our side.  I mean love at it's purest form.  You see glimpses of this love in the most innocent of beings, the most selfless acts and in the subtlest of ways.

A toddler hugs a stranger.  A dog greets his owner after a day at work.  A stranger gives up his seat on the bus to an elderly woman - with a smile.  A woman gives an compliment to a surly looking woman behind the checkout stand.  He decides to spend his holiday with orphans instead of going skiing in the Alps.  He brings his wife a single flower he stole from a garden because he couldn't afford to buy one.  She takes out the trash this time, because he had such a long day at work.  A teenager spends his Saturday morning serving the homeless at a soup kitchen.  She gives her last five dollars to a charity helping out the local fire department instead of getting that cup of coffee.  A father spends the evening playing catch with his kids in the backyard after a long day at work instead of sitting in front of the television.  She visits her parents for dinner - just because it's been awhile.  He stands up to the bully at school when she's picking on someone weaker.  She makes a card for someone in the hospital she barely knows.

Love.

It's not complicated.







Sunday, February 7, 2016

Runaway Bride... and Papaya.



One of my all-time favorite Julia Roberts movies.  This particular scene is about two minutes before she goes sprinting down the aisle away from Groom #4.

Recently my maid of honor said I reminded her of this movie - don't worry, I'm not about to wear my Asics to my ceremony!  However, there's a point made in the movie that Maggie (Julia Roberts) has been running from her grooms because if she'd gone through with it, they would have married a lie.  She was never honest about the little things, about who she really was, and so she ran before she could say "I do."  As a soon-to-be-bride, this was a monumental moment when the lightbulb went off.

The little things matter.  In this stage of being engaged it's tempting to say they don't, but they do.  For instance, my fiancee enjoys bringing dinner to my place once in awhile and he often surprises me with dishes or types of food I've never tried.  Living in the Middle East that leaves an enormous selection for me.  One day he brought over papaya.  I took a few bites, muscled my way through it and set it aside.  He asked if I like papaya, and for some reason I said, "Sure."  No, I don't.  Why on earth did I say that I did?

Because he likes it.  In some twisted mathematical world that equation said I needed to like it too.  I've never been good at math.

Unfortunately, if we tell enough of those little lies, usually we do this with the intention of pleasing our partner, we create a mask.  Your significant other continues to fall in love with someone they think they know - but don't.  Hence, the significance of the lesson in Runaway Bride.  Then, one day, months or years down the road the truths start coming out and resentments surface.  I cringe at the idea of being served papaya every few days because my then-husband remembers that I said I liked it.  Why is it so hard to say, "no.  I don't like ______"?

Because we fear rejection.  Yes, even over those little things.  Deep down, those of us who struggle with fears of abandonment, rejection, accepting another's love, believing another's love is as deep as they say it is, and simply being loved for who we are look at a papaya and see our deepest fears coming true if we're honest.

But here's a fact about love.  Real love, the stuff that lasts and runs so deep nothing can get underneath it to create division, casts out fear.  Real love, the good stuff, means letting the truth strip you bare in front of the person you love and letting them decide if they still want you.  Even over a papaya.  Deep down, it's not just about a piece of fruit - it's about being seen for exactly who we are.  And that's the scariest thing of all: being seen, being known, being laid bare for another person to scrutinize, criticize and condemn.  But from what I hear, it's also the most glorious thing of all: being seen, being known, being laid bare for another person to love, respect, cherish and treasure.  Forever.

I'd rather the latter.  The only way to find out if that's possible is to take the leap and trust my fiancee with who I am, as honest as I can be, about the big and the little as they come up.

I can't imagine getting married without being seen, being known, being laid bare... at least when it comes to a papaya.  My fiancee and I aren't moving in with one another until the wedding, we're saving our first kiss for the altar, and there will be a lot more first's after that!  If I can't be honest about a piece of fruit, it doesn't provide my husband-to-be with much confidence in my ability and willingness to be honest about the bigger things.

So here it is.

Honey, I don't like papaya.  I prefer mango.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Countdown to the Big Day



This isn't really how it happened.

My fiancee proposed on January 2nd, 2016 and this was taken about two weeks later at our engagement photo shoot.  We had a lot of fun.  The real proposal was much better.  Everything went wrong, not the way he planned it, but he still pulled the ring out of his bag, got down on one knee and started to cry as he asked me to marry him.

I've learned a lot since getting engaged.  My fiancee is an amazing leader.  He's taken the reigns of planning and yet at the same time has given me freedom to plan the decor and figure out the theme and colors.  He's using every contact he has to save money and at the same time it's going to be a truly beautiful wedding.  He does all this while working 50-60 hours a week and taking care of his mother, sister and me.  He's been thinking about his wedding for more than a decade - definitely longer than I have!  I'm not one of those women who dreamed about her wedding since she was little.  I hadn't started thinking about marriage until my early twenties, and didn't start taking it seriously until about six months before I started dating my soon-to-be husband.  But when I tried on my first wedding dress, I was moved to tears.

That word still strikes me - husband.  The gravity of this life change hasn't escaped me.  We've held to the command of the Bible thus far to be pure before our wedding.  We're saving our first kiss for the altar.  The biggest change won't necessarily be what happens on the wedding night, but rather what happens every day after that.

Getting married isn't just starting your life with another person.  It's working through what life throws at you, with another person.  When you're single all you have to be concerned about is yourself.  There's no need to consult a different personality, come to an agreement with someone who has different priorities and opinions than you do, or even listen to a person who disagrees with you.  It's your life - do what you want.  All of that goes out the window once you get married.  Marriage is no longer about you - it's about your spouse.  When it's done right everyone's needs are met all the time and everyone is happy all the time - because each person is constantly thinking about the other!

Anyone who's been married longer than a week or two (after the honeymoon, typically) will realize this just isn't possible.  We're selfish human beings with our own plans, our own goals, our own dreams and debts and demons.  We leave the toothpaste cap off, we throw our socks on the floor - six inches away from the hamper, we forget to close drawers, we never put anything back where it belongs, we lie, we're selfish and we don't trust.  And when we get married we drag another person into that mess that is our humanity and hope and pray, dear God do we pray, that they'll keep loving us anyway.

I've read books on the subject of marriage and becoming "one" together and how marriage is meant to make you holy, not necessarily happy.  Holiness does breed happiness, but happiness doesn't necessarily breed holiness.  I've been engaged nearly a month and I'm already seeing the truth in this.  I've never been more aware of my insecurities, shortcomings, failures and struggles than I am now.  But I'm seeing many ways to grow and be more like Christ.  And I know once I get married it'll only get worse!  Marriage is not for the faint of heart.  It's not for those who refuse to change.  It's definitely not for those who aren't willing to put up a fight.  

Marriage is about reflecting the relationship between Christ and the church.  Christ is the bridegroom, the church his bride.  From the moment my fiancee and I say, "I do," we're taking on that symbol and have an opportunity - an obligation - to reflect the relationship between Christ and the church.  He is to lead me, give himself up for me, and love me the same way Christ loves the church.  That's a seriously tall order!  I'm to follow my husband, submit to him, trust him and be a helper to him in all things, not a hindrance - and that's no easy task for a woman so used to being independent and fearful of failing anyone, much less the person I love most.

All decisions are made together.  Money is no longer his and mine, but ours.  Family is no longer his and mine, but ours.  Goals are no longer his and mine, but ours - or at the very least we're supportive of one another's goals.  We become one unit, inseparable to the fiercest storms life throws at us because at the center of us is Christ holding us together.  We're no longer relying on ourselves, but clinging to Christ as our reason for loving one another - he first loved us - and the cement that holds us together - he is immovable, unchangeable and indestructible.

I honestly don't know how marriages last without Him.  My fiancee and I are about to face the test so many others face and we've already hit a few hurdles on the way.  I'm grateful for them.  My fiancee shown himself to be patient, loving, determined, and a rock I can lean on when the crying comes.  He continues to lead me in my relationship with Christ and even when he faces enormous challenges at work, he still shoulders the responsibilities God has given him, straps on his boots and says, "This is life.  Let's pray, and do this."

I can honestly say that while I'm excited and nervous for this change, I have no doubt in my mind this man is the one for me and I am incredibly blessed to get to be his wife in just a couple of short months.

Friday, December 4, 2015

When God's Purposes Override My Plans

They call it the "Third Month Wall" for a reason.



Every person who moves to another country faces it, and it's practically a rite of passage.  The first two months are exciting, adventurous and new.  But in Oman, by the end of the third month it's no longer funny that all the streets remain unnamed and never connect to one another - it's a nightmare trying to navigate it from one appointment to another.  It's no longer interesting how stores don't sell certain ingredients that can be necessary to cooking - it makes you want to give up trying to cook all together.  Those old hobbies you took for granted stateside that you can't do here are suddenly coveted.  The ice everyone complains about on the roads and windshields make you cry because you'd give anything to slip on the ice and get a freezing bum on your way to work.  A "nice day" everyone loves back home is now resented by you because it's so bloody hot, ALL the time.

By the end of the third month you've forgotten all the reasons why you moved here and going back home looks like the wisest idea you've ever come up with.  Conveniently forgetting that you've made yourself a home here already.  Add homesickness to that, depression and anxiety, and even more vulnerability trying to build a relationship you desperately want to see work.... I'd reached my threshold.

I'll admit it, in hitting the Third Month Wall I started to seriously look at moving back to the States.  I was looking at jobs, what kind of car I could get, and how I'd manage to build up enough of a savings to financially survive the first few months of being back.  I built a budget and when everything was practically put together, I sat back and looked at my life.

Depression is a scary thing to deal with when it surfaces.  The chemical imbalance in the brain make it impossible to simply "choose happiness."  Your body feels weighed down with bricks as you go about your day.  Headaches are a constant companion and the fatigue is just unbelievable.  It's not uncommon for me to sleep 12+ hours in a day a couple of days a week.  My dog has been an amazing source of joy.  More often than not the past few weeks my first and only smile of the day came when I arrived home from work and she ran up, happy to see me.  To face constant grief with no light at the end of the tunnel is a scary place I've been before, and I had no desire to return to it.  Finding myself in it again was a huge red flag to get out of this country and go back to my safe corner in the States.

When I shared where I was at with my boyfriend, he was rightfully surprised and upset.  After everything he sacrificed and went through to help me get here, to hear that I was seriously thinking of leaving again came as an enormous shock and scare.  Was it even possible to be in a relationship long distance?  Not knowing when we'd see each other again?  I told him I'd fast about it once a week for a month to help decide if I needed to stay here or go back to the States.

I reached out to a handful of women I trust and through Skype asked for their prayers, received that and their advice. There's a very good reason scripture says, "The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice," and "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed."

All of the women I got advice from know me.  They know my medical history and they know my character.  They've seen me in my darkest times and have helped me through good times and bad.  They have the ability to empathize and validate, and yet will call me out and call me higher.  These are women who seek God and his Word for guidance rather than popular opinion.  They are women who want to see me succeed and grow in my relationship with Christ, rather than wish to see me fail.  They're women I trust.  And because I trust them, I was able to trust their guidance, though it was painful to hear.

I was reminded that though the depression I'm facing now is similar to what I faced 2 years ago, I am not that same person.  That woman couldn't possibly be in a healthy relationship, much less move to the Middle East to pursue it.  While the red flags are still red flags, I've learned how to cope and recover from the cause.  My tolerance for certain things may be much lower than usual, but I am actually in tune with what my mind and body needs in order to provide self-care.  My level of trust in God is far more deeply rooted now than it was 2 years ago, which means I can handle more now than I could back then because I've placed my trust in a God whose strength is made perfect in my weakness.  His grace is sufficient for me.

"Give yourself more credit, Sam," one friend advised.  "You've moved to an entirely new country, a Muslim country no less, an entirely different world compared to where you used to live.  You got a job in something you've never done before and are expected to lead employees in a country where women aren't supposed to lead, but follow.  You're in a relationship with a man you love but that means being vulnerable and sharing your heart all the time.  You've left your entire support system and resources here, only to have to build new ones there from nothing.  Have patience, give yourself more credit.  You're doing great considering the circumstances."

My best friend just got engaged over Thanksgiving and it's been a very difficult thing to not be there for her through the wedding planning process.  We make do with Voxer and Skype, and that's the best we can do with the distance.  And we're making it work.  The holidays are always brutal, and I cry at the drop of a hat when I remember going sledding with my kid brothers, or snowboarding with my dad, or even just walking in the snow as it falls quietly at night.  Christmas tree lots are on every street corner where I lived, and here you're lucky to get a fake tree that's 6 feet tall from the store.  The differences are painful, but there are many good things too.



My boyfriend shows up with more and more decorations to make things festive in my home.  He got me a lovely little tree and all the trappings for it.  He even put 200 Christmas songs on a USB drive for me to listen to in my car, and printed off a dozen Christmas themed cutouts to hang around my house.  He's been so patient and persevered with me in my emotional roller coaster and has never once raised his voice to me or spoken harshly to me as my moods have traversed the entire latitude and longitude of the planet.  He holds my hand and shows more affection than anyone else would with a moody girlfriend, and he continues to call me higher as he helps me figure out what to study in my quiet times and how to reconnect with God.  He continues to pray for us and for me specifically.  As I share my needs we work on our communication and definition of things like "quality time" more clearly and then he's been great about doing what he can to meet the needs he's supposed to meet, while helping me get help from others as well.

Another friend told me, "Sam, God has you there for a reason.  There's a purpose in your being there.  Consider Moses and everything he went through before God called him out of a burning bush.  You're like Moses, going to a foreign land and learning how to live and work and start a relationship like he did with Zapporah in Midian."

I told her, "I don't want to be Moses.  I want to live a quiet life, raise a family, work and lead a simple life."

"I hate to break it to you Sam, but you're Moses.  It is what it is."

I still don't want to be Moses, but she's right.  My circumstances are what they are and I can either choose to submit to God, trusting him, or I can resist Him and the path he's laid out for me.  Either way God will be with me, but only one path was specifically approved and even made possible by God.  Being here isn't easy, but it is what it is.

Instead of fasting once a week for a month about whether I should stay here or go back to the States, I decided I'm going to fast about having God's strength in this time I feel so weak.  He has promised to be with me until the very end of the age.  He's promised to guide me with his counsel, he's given me everything I need in order to live a godly life, and that he'll never leave me or forsake me.  He will comfort me, and he will give me everything I need if I simply seek his kingdom first.

This isn't easy.  I'll be the first to admit it.  However, Christ left heaven to come to a fallen land, and entirely different world.  He left a place of love and freedom and compassion where all his needs were met in his perfect union with God the Father and the Holy Spirit... only to come to the earth drowning in sin and evil.  The more I share in his sufferings, I feel closer to him.  It's not easy, but it was never meant to be.  We're meant to simply take heart, and draw nearer to Christ in the process.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Oman Insights and Observations

This week marked two months since I’ve been in Muscat and I’ve experienced a lot in a short time.  I got a job, learned how to drive in this crazy city and how to find my way around (for the most part).  I’m learning the best neighborhoods to shop in for certain things and how to barter (pretty much the malls are the only stores where bartering doesn’t happen).  I’m learning about the many different cultures that reside here and how to show respect without compromising on the fact that I’m a Christian American.  The following is a little insight to some of the things I’ve discovered living in the city of Muscat.

As I sit here drinking it, I’ve grown quite fond of Indian tea.  The kind in the red box that’s full of loose tea leaves, rather than teabags.  A little cream and it’s not only a great energy booster but it tastes delightful.  Coffee is hard to come bye – the real stuff that is – and most people drink instant coffee.  It works, but I’m finding I prefer the real coffee beans or this Indian tea to instant coffee if I can.

I’ve also grown fond of carrying a sweatshirt with me to work every day.  Though this is the Middle East, there’s a significant climate change when you step inside a building.  That’s how people manage to wear pants and long sleeves when it’s 120 degrees (F) outside – when you step into the A/C it drops to 65. 

Doing a workout here is nothing like doing on in the grand ole USA.  You have to have a thick skin and solid self-confidence if you’re going to go to the gym.  99% of the crowd is male, and 80% of that 98% have no qualms about staring.  It’s not uncommon for me to be sprinting on the treadmill and in the mirror watch men trip over themselves as they stare while walking bye.  It’s also very common for me to go to an empty space of the gym and start a workout, and within five minutes I’m surrounded.  They work out – but they rest a lot and eyes are often fixated on one common object!  Back to my point – you have to have a thick skin and solid self-confidence to really not care about all of that and simply do your workout.  The alternative is to go to an all woman’s gym but, let’s face it, the free weights and machines are so much better where the guys are at!

On the topic of clothing: as a woman in Oman, I’m blessed in that I don’t have to wear the abaya or hijab like the Muslim women.  Oman is so tolerant of other religions it’s simply not a requirement or even a suggestion.  I can walk down the street in modest shorts and a tank top without anyone stopping me or giving me dirty looks.  I will, however, get all sorts of catcalls and honks from passing cars.  A happy compromise – I wear jeans and cover my shoulders if I go out or into a shop or restaurant.  I still get catcalls and honks and stares, but that’s the tradeoff for not having to wear the abaya or hijab.

Driving is a whole other animal here.  Never get behind a taxi while driving on the highway – they’re liable to stop at any time and it’s your fault for being dumb enough to be behind them when that happens.  Also, the speed limit is merely a suggestion, and you have a solid 20 kilometers faster you can go before you get photographed by one of the speed checks that pop up every kilometer or so.  Of course, the biggest cause of accidents is due to speeding and I see one about every other day.

Unlike the States, Oman only has two phone carriers.  Every month you either have to add more money to your plan, or you have to put enough money on your phone so that you can simply renew your plan each month.  There’s also a specific code you have to insert when you do this that will channel your money either to Internet, calls or both.  I’m still getting the hang of this, and admit I have spent way more money than I should have because I forgot to enter a code and was charged per megabyte, rather than being charged a certain number of megabytes for the month.  I’m still figuring this whole part of everyday life out.

One of my all time favorite local meals is Lebanese and it’s called a shawarma.  Chicken, pickles, French fries and some delicious sauce all wrapped up in Arabic bread.  Some restaurants put lettuce and a few other things inside, but this is seriously one of the best things I’ve ever tasted.  If it weren’t so somewhat unhealthy I’d probably have one a day.  Instead I treat myself once every couple of weeks.  There’s a restaurant called Arax in Qurum near the Intercontinental hotel that has the BEST shawarmas.  Second best are at Al Jood’s Restaurant in Azaiba.  My fallback meal when I’m pressed for time or just want something healthy: Fattoush.  It’s a salad made up of tomatoes, cucumbers, mint, parsley, lemon juice, sumac, garlic, and a shallot.  It’s healthy and very refreshing.  Honestly between lemon juice and olive oil I no longer even consider buying salad dressing.

Another observation, the cooler it gets the more people come out of the woodwork.  Very interesting things happen in this city as the weather improves.  Outdoor concerts and theater are available for free for the public’s enjoyment and football (soccer) games are thrown together on the side of the highway wherever there’s grass to support it.  Cafes and restaurants stay open late so people sit over plastic tables sipping chai or Turkish coffee as late as midnight and sometimes later.  Street shops (and malls) stay open longer too, so it’s common to see people shopping as late as 11 o’clock at night.

I’m learning how to be respectful with Meg as well.  Most people here are terrified of big dogs.  About 1 in 10 will actually be happy to see her and want to pet her.  For the sake of the rest I always have to ride an elevator alone with her, unless I’m invited inside.  When walking her on the street I purposefully put myself between her and those we pass otherwise they take such a wide berth into traffic I worry they’ll get hit by a car because they’re so concerned about avoiding Meg.  And under no circumstances is she allowed to smell people – at all!  Unless they ask to pet her, she can’t even lean over to smell them otherwise they jump back and fear she’s going to bite.  It’s a shame really – she’s such a love-bug and adores people.  But, I make up for it when we’re home, and when church is at my place everyone loves on her then too.

I’m reminded of Paul when he said, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone,” (Romans 12:18) and “I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself.  But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.  If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love… Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil,” (Romans 14:14-16).  What I do may not be wrong or disrespectful in the States, but here it could be both of those things.  For the sake of loving others the way Christ calls me to love, I have to do whatever I can to live at peace with people, and respect what they believe is unclean or improper.  I may not need to wear the abaya or hijab, but I certainly don’t want to walk inside a store in a strapless top and short shorts, or don a bikini on a public beach.

Another scripture, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some,” (1 Corinthians 9:22b).  While I don’t need to dress, speak or act exactly like everyone else, it’s good to adapt to the culture and learn how to dress respectfully, speak the language and act in a way that would instill joy and encouragement in others.  My goal is to help the church here to grow, and if my words, dress and behavior already put them off how can I fulfill my goal?  Ultimately, God’s goal.



There’s much to learn and experience, but I’m enjoying the bits and pieces as they come along.


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Settling In


The first day I arrived in Muscat I was completely taken aback.  My boyfriend not only paid off the customs agent to get Meg into the country (then went back with the necessary paperwork a few days later), he put me up in a really nice brand new apartment.  He also furnished the whole thing before I arrived and included a dozen maps, visitor books on the country and magazines.  He even added thoughtful touches of framing a picture of the two of us and putting it on one nightstand, and framing a second photo of my best friend and I with my little brothers and putting it on the other nightstand.  A sign that read, “Welcome to Muscat Sam & Meg” lay on my bed with signatures from just about every church member.  Needless to say, I cried.

The first couple of weeks in Muscat he took me to probably a dozen different schools for interviews and to drop off my resume.  He called, e-mailed and wheedled his way into offices of those who would be best to receive my papers to get me a job.  After two weeks it became pretty clear that I was too late in the game to get a job as a teacher – especially one without a car.  We broadened my scope to the next best jobs that would utilize my skills.  My degree is in human development, and my certifications are in being an assistant nurse as well as a teacher of English as a second language to adults.  My military experience gave me MC, writing, video and audio editing, and radio announcing experience.  I finally landed a job with an event coordinating company on a strictly trainee basis.  The general manager and I share a U.S. military background. 

Honestly, I wasn’t qualified for this job when I got it.  The GM just kept saying, “I couldn’t stop thinking about you for some reason,” “I couldn’t get you out of my head,” “You’re not qualified but something in my gut keeps telling me to take a chance on you.”

He may not know what that “something” was, but I do.  We make our own plans, but God determines the steps we take (Proverbs 16:9; 20:24). 

He’s got me on a 90-day on-the-job-training program right now with a fixed salary each month.  Come the New Year my salary will increase depending on my value to the company.  I’m being groomed to take on a management position in the next 3-4 months and once the late spring and summer months hit our workload will slow down exponentially because the majority of the residents go on vacation.  That will allow me to not only take vacations as well, but to go back to school.  I’m planning on getting an associates degree in Oenology and Wine Business to, eventually, open my own winery back in Washington State.

I’ve been working with this company for a little over three weeks and it’s been a wonderful eye-opener.  While the hours are not what someone would typically prefer – I work most weekends and holidays in addition to weekdays – it’s given me a vision of how the skills I’m learning now will be beneficial to me in the future.  Learning management, event coordination, Disc Jockey, sound and lighting systems have given me a vision of making a future winery also a place to host events like weddings, birthdays, family reunions and anniversaries.  Adding to it a few years into the business would be a bed and breakfast farther up on the property.  Who wouldn’t want to have their wedding, reunion, etc. at the winery, and then stay at a quaint B&B up the lane?

God’s provision has continued to surpass my expectations.  Most people wait a month or more before they’re able to get a job – I only had to wait two weeks.  Admittedly it felt like a very long two weeks!  My boyfriend has been an incredible support since I got here.  Until my first paycheck comes he’s been helping with weekly expenses so I don’t have to worry about them.  Until I get a car he’s been wonderful about picking me up and taking me to run errands without so much as a single word of complaint.  My dog, Meg, has been well loved and taken care of since I got here.  Even with my crazy work hours it’s never been an issue for me to run home to walk her and feed her before having to get back to a setup for an event.  With all the changes that have happened to her the last few months she’s transitioned like a champion.

Across the street from my apartment is a very nice gym that’s affordable for my budget so I got a membership last week.  Having that simple luxury of being able to have a safe place, especially one that’s so close, to stay in shape has been an incredible blessing.  One by one God provides ways to help me take care of myself.

Joe and I continue to work on our relationship, day by day.  The romantic beginning he and I experienced, one that everyone said was just like a fairytale, has shifted to a wonderfully intimate reality.  We’ve had difficult conversations that meant we had to share hurts, disappointments, frustrations and our hearts desires.  We’ve had to sacrifice and humble ourselves, even when we aren’t sure we wanted to.  We’ve had fun, laughed, been able to rest, relax and set aside the demands of work and life simply by spending a few hours in one another’s presence.  We continue to learn what it means to be in a relationship, and continue to work to be better partners for one another.  One of the most joyful moments for me was when I shared about a stranger who had become pushy with me at a club event, and Joe offered to talk to him if he showed up again.  That small act of offering protection meant the world to me.  The more I open my heart to him and give him a chance to know me, the more confidence I have in him and his love to last.

I’m still settling in to Muscat.  I’m working on adding color and feminine touches to my apartment.  I’m still discovering my role at work.  I’m trying to find ways to establish something of a routine, and creating little comforts to make long work nights less of a burden on my heart and mind.  I’m still learning how to be a girlfriend!  But I’m enjoying the journey.  I miss my family, friends and home state every day.  There’s nothing like eastern Washington in the fall.  But the Middle East has its beauty as well.  The more I seek first God’s kingdom more is added to me.  Church, meeting with women in my congregation, opening my heart, being in the Word every morning and having a prayer list to bring to God’s throne every day makes all the difference in the world.  The more I seek Him, the more of Him and His goodness I find.