Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Year Later, I'm Still Captivated

A year ago this weekend, I went to Colorado for the Captivating Retreat. It was a truly life changing weekend. When I shared about it a year ago, I kept it pretty light. Right now, some dear friends are coming together there again for the advanced weekend. As I pray for them, I remember this sweet word from the Lord.

On the flight to Denver, I told God about all of the things I hoped for and if I only got one of them, that would be enough for me. And I meant it with my whole heart. God, being who He is, not only did everything that I hoped for, He did more. Just because He can. Just because He loves me. I so wish I could sit down with you and tell you all about it. I can't. However, there is one part I have to share. It can't be held in.

During our Covenant of Silence time on Friday night, we were to spend time asking God a few questions: What do you say about me? How do you feel towards me? By what name do you call me? This was something I had been desiring to hear so badly over the past couple of years. God has led me out of what was known and expected of me. The repercussions of that have been more blessing than I have ever hoped to know coupled with more pain than I knew was possible. This pain was tied to past areas of injury that were still healing. I needed to hear from God, especially in these areas.

Throughout our time that night, the Lord spoke very healing and sweet words over my heart. However, I couldn't hear my name. We were given a white stone to consider in reference to Revelation 2:17. ( I will also give to each of them a white stone with a new name written on it, which no one knows except the one who receives it.) I held my white stone, rubbing it with my thumb. I could feel my name right there but I had no idea what it was. I would get a word or phrase but it didn't feel like my name. Sweet but my spirit didn't respond to it. Then it came:

Wild Woman

I knew this was it because two things happened immediately. 1. My heart leaped and a giggled slipped out of my lips. 2. I heard in the back of my head, "That's not me." Thankfully, I was able to recognize what just happened - it was the first thing my spirit responded to and it was the first thing that was attacked. I sat with it a moment asking God if He was sure. "You know me. I'm a 30 year old, single, first grade teacher that loves to sit in bookstores and drink hot tea. Wild Woman? I trust you but I don't see it." God told me He knows. He's sure. We weren't finished but He sent me to bed.

That night, this Texas girl woke up with very cold toes. I slipped on socks but was wide awake. God was ready to finish this. As I laid in my bed with just God to keep me company, this is what went down:

God: What are you struggling with?
Me: The "wild" part.
God: What does wild mean to you?
Me: Edgy. Crazy. Sporty. Extreme.
God: That's adventurous. Not wild.
Me: What does wild mean to You?
God: Look around. These mountains that take your breath away. These aspens you are falling in love with. That stream you sat by earlier. The stars that you've been waiting to sit under. All of that is wild. That is my creation. It is strong and beautiful just as I made it. It is exactly where I want it. It is under my care. In my hands, it is perfect in every way. There is nothing that can make it better aside from Me. That is what wild means. Untouched by man. You, Dana, are my Wild Woman. Made be Me - In your beauty. In your strength. In My care. You are untamed, wild beauty.

I'm thankful God is an emotional God. I'm thankful He understands the need for tears. I'm thankful He allows us to process things in bits. I'm thankful He is sweet to continually reveal the layers of what He said that night. He has shown me more of what wild means to Him.

Now my white rock sits in Cairo, Egypt. When I glance at it and see the words "Wild Woman" written on it, I smile. There is still a part of me that shakes my head at that. No one but God would call me wild. Maybe that's part of the reason He chose it. But when I sit with it, when I remember, it takes my breath away.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Lessons Learned in Cairo

- It is possible to become pretty instant friends with some amazing people.
- It is possible to feel the need to protect someone even though you speak two completely different languages.
- It is possible to no longer be surprised by things.
- Sometimes it takes moving around the world to become more clear about what you want to do with your life.
- Sometimes moving around the world shows you that your dreams aren't limited to a place.
- You can break old habits and learn new ones.
- You can keep in touch with the dearest of friends even after you move away.
- You can learn how to use chopsticks in a country with no Chinatown.
- You can learn that uncertainty isn't as scary as you thought.
- Your normal can change but in the end, its OK.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


June 15, 2011 is a day that I will never forgot. I remember I got up about 9:00 because it was the first day of summer vacation that I had to sleep in. Between appointments and Grandma's latest trip to the hospital, rest just hadn't really happened yet. I got out of bed and went through my morning routine. As I was finishing up, I decided to jump on facebook and there to my surprise was a message from Ms. Jen Cates. There is was an open position to teach Kinder in Cairo with her. You can go back and read all of the details but I thought I would share a bit that I left off now.

I remember reading Jen's message and just knowing that if I responded yes, I would have the job. I can't explain it but I knew more clearly than I have known anything in a long time. I remember sitting with my hand on the keyboard drumming my fingers on the home row of the keyboard and just staring at the screen. I would start to type my yes and a million questions flooded my mind - uncertainties, the unknown, the what ifs, the what I'll be missings. Then I would erase it and type but no and everything in my would tighten up - as if it were the biggest mistake of my life. I had to get out of my head. I had to remember that no matter what I decided, if it wasn't aligned with God, what was the point. So I stopped and prayed. I felt the need to turn on iTunes and let it randomly choose a song. The one that came on was "I Will Follow" by Chris Tomlin. It brought me to my knees. My what ifs and all of that didn't matter. What mattered was my willingness to go where the Lord was opening doors. So I prayed something that I never prayed before. I asked that for once I not look eight steps down the road but to take the first with my eyes on the Lord. So I sent in a yes. The doors started flying open and seven weeks later, I landed in Cairo.

Fast forward a bit. The first few weeks were good but a big rough. It took three weeks but I was finally able to visit a church. The worship leader was good and everyone was so kind. We were wrapping up service and it was announced that we were going to learn a new song. He started playing and the lyrics to "I Will Follow" came on the screen. Tears, ya'll. I tried not to but there I was, the new girl crying in church. It was contained well but not stopped. It was a reminder of why I'm here. It doesn't matter the momentary circumstances, I've been sent here. It was a beautiful and humbling reminder.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Riddle Seems Appropriate

What has four triangular faces, a square base, and five verticies? If you don't know, this won't let you by:

That's right! A pyramid! Two weeks ago, we saw not one, not three, but six of them up close and personal. I've seen them in pictures, on TV, in movies, and nothing - NOTHING - prepared me for what I was about to see.

We decided that the pyramids were a must when we arrived. After much hemming and hawing, we decided to go on a Friday since most people would be at Mosque. Smart move. We arrived at about 9:30 in the morning so we could beat the heat. First stop, the camel guy. Yep, we had the name of a camel guy. He helped us buy our tickets and took us to meet the beasts. The were T.A.L.L. To get on them, they would sit all of the way down and we could cimb on like on a horse. Then the drivers had us lean as far back as we could. The camel would climb up into the standing position as we rocked back and forth. The threat of a face plant seemed very real to this girl! I've never been so thankful for Jackie Hutton teaching me to stand in a saddle. However, once we were up and moving, it was smooth sailing for us. The camels were tied together in groups of five. Here is my camel who I lovingly named Clyde.

The nice thing about our camel guy was that they took us in the back way. We couldn't see anything for a while. In fact, it looked like we were getting further away from where the pyramids were. Then we turned the corner and there they were. The driver stopped the group, we leaned back and everyone avoided falling off. We got off and the pictures began.

The guys - Gavin, Marco, Colton, Adam, Matt, and Brad

The girls - Denise, me, Jen, and Anne

On a side note, notice the difference in the clothing of the guys and girls. In Egypt, we are definitely the more covered of the two. I miss shorts. Alot. However, on this day, guess who got sunburns and who did not. :) Ha!

After everyone got a few pictures that we were wanting, we got back on the camels and started moving closer. The pyramids looked big from a distance but this was unreal. The closer we got, the bigger they seemed to grow. We went by the smaller one first but didn't get off. And just to be clear, small is a very relative term. However, as we came around the corner, I got this shot. It is probably one of my favorites of the day.

There it was, the biggest of the pyramids. It was massive. We were advised not to go in as everything inside had been moved to the museum. Instead, we decided to enjoy the lack of people there.

First thing we did was climb the pyramd. We didn't get very high but still - we climbed a pyramid!

It was tiring so I decided to take a seat. Check out the size of those "bricks"! But this one just doesn't do it justice.....

so we zoomed out a bit.

(Can you imagine how loud it was when those bricks fell off of the pyramid?)

As we were at the pyramids, the Friday mid-day call to prayer sounded. However, since it was Friday, their holy day, it wasn't just the call to prayer. It was the hour long reading of the Qur'an. We were at the pyramids, overlooking the city of Cairo, and from speakers all across the city, we could hear men reading the Qur'an in Arabic. It was so surreal. There we were, standing overshadowed by the past and listening to the present. How much has changed, how much has remained, and how much is to come. I felt very small.

After playing at the pyramids, we decided it was time to go see the Sphynx. We started walking over before we remembered that we had camels. So we went back and rode them down.

Just so you know, riding camels on sand is great. Riding camels down rock pathways is scary! They were sliding and slipping all over the place and we were a good 8 - 10 feet in the air. I was riding the lead camel and was thinking I was over-reacting to the sliding I was feeling. Then I noticed the other nine got silent as we went along. Needless to say, we were all pretty nervous. However, we made it down and saw the Sphynx. Not quite as big as I had always imaginged but there it was in all of its glory.

Me and Denise in front of the Sphynx (which I apparently think of as a girl because I keep wanting to type "her"). While we were there, several people were taking fun pictures of them "kissing" the Sphynx. All around us were children giving us advice and moving us around so we could get the perfect shot. It was a bit annoying - not only because they were in the way but also because they wanted tips for their "help". So, we got our pictures, remounted the camels, and went home. Two and a half hours of sun, sand, and wonders of the ancient world.

Cairo: The City of Overstimulation

I know it's been two weeks since I last posted. Sorry. That is the funny thing about Cairo - while we've only been here about four weeks, it feels like four months. That isn't a bad thig, just how it is - we all think so. There has been so much going on that sitting down to post seems to have taken the back seat. Things are either super busy or I'm so overloaded that nothing can come out. So on this quiet Friday morning, I thought I would just share some observations.

Cairo is a loud city. Loud. The Egyptian people don't know what a conversational voice level is. It constantly sounds like they are trying to get each others attention arcoss the room when they are three feet away. The funny thing is that most of the time, they are just talking. The cars honk all of the time. All. Of. The. Time. The thing about it is that all of the honking means something and you learn very quickly what they are "saying" to you while they honk. Egyptians like their music - especially turned up loud. I've actually had to ask taxi drivers to turn down the music. The calls to prayer sound five times a day. From speakers. All around the city. They are fading into the background but they are still there. Especailly on Fridays when they read for an hour. The streets are built up on all sides so that all of the sound travels as through a tunnel.

Cairo is a crowded city. You learn very quickly that walking on the side of the road means almost rubbing up against cars parked on the side. Taxis drive within inches of you and you just get used to it. People are everywhere - not quite like Times Square but constantly there.

Cairo suprises you every day. Some mornings you get up to go to work and find a small lake at the bottom of your road so you have to walk through sand, rocks, and piles of trash to get to the bus. Taxis will "fail", kick you out, and then speed off once you pay them. You go to the pyramids and see emaciated or rigored animals all along the way. You find yourself interacting with local people very differently than you thought you would - especially men.

And living in Cairo is so beautifully different than anywhere else. You learn the beauty of fresh produce (even if it isn't the best season quite yet). You learn to love not having a car. You learn how to quickly love and appreciate new people - some of which you may not have interacted with in your life before here. You learn that despite what you've known before, it is not only acceptable but encouraged to invite yourself to people's homes/events. You learn to crave the community of like minded people and the joy of learning from those so different from you. You learn to expect the unexpected and just go with it. Everyday you feel the pride of just doing it - jumping in with both feet. You lay down at night and think, "I can't believe I did it." And every night, "it" is something new. At the same time, you lay down every night and feel humbled. You don't know it all, you can't do it all, and you still have a lot to learn.