Saturday, September 14, 2013

Romania Part Six: Angel Face

*Edit: I wrote the following blog a few weeks ago, and for some reason, just wasn't ready to share it.  I think I am now.  Today marks a month that I've been back in the states, so I guess it's as good a time as any*

This will most likely be the final post about Romania.  It requires a little bit of introduction.

I have weird dreams sometimes.  Some of them are long and detailed.  Others are short.  They happen when I'm in that state between wake and sleep.  They're sometimes just a few words or images, and when I hear and them, they're so intense and real that they wake me up.  And the memory of the word or image is so clear and present in my mind after waking that it takes me sometimes several moments to stop thinking about it.  I try not to read too much into dreams, but when they're dreams like this--I at least pay attention.  It could be nothing, but I don't want to miss it if it turns out to be something.

I had one of these dreams on one of the flights to Romania.  It was a very odd waking dream.  I just dreamed a color.  The color red just flashed before my eyes in such a vibrant way that I couldn't stop thinking about it after it woke me up.  I was trying not to read too much into things, but the whole time I was in Romania, I kept wondering if there was something I was supposed to be looking for with the color red. 

It's kind of funny because the prepaid phone services in Romania have names of different colors.  I noticed orange phone plans and blue phone plans.  There was also a RED phone plan, and I considered briefly stopping our team to go into one of the phone stores that was advertising RED phone plans, just because of that dream.  But I knew that probably wasn't really all that wise, and the Holy Spirit didn't seem in that decision.  And I didn't want to force a meaning out of a dream that might have just been me being half-delirious on a plane.

So the week in Romania went on, and I just kind of forgot about the RED dream. 

The last night in Romania, my pastor, the pastor we were working with there, the pastor's youngest son, the missionary who had come from Switzerland, and I all piled up into the van and started driving out to a village.  I was pretty apprehensive about this village visit, for a couple of reasons.  Two of our team members were not coming--they had stayed to cook dinner for the pastor's family, which was a very nice gesture.  I didn't know I was going to be accompanying the others out into the village either, but they wanted me to come.  And I didn't know what to expect, and neither did any of us, really.  This wasn't a typical church service, even by Romanian village standards.

A man in one of the villages, not a pastor, but a bachelor in his sixties, wanted to have an evangelistic service for several of his neighbors--many who were unsaved.  We pretty much didn't know what that would look like until we got there.

And I wish I had taken a few pictures, because this place was interesting.  We had a few benches and plastic chairs all gathered round this guy's back yard.  The guy kept a LOT of chickens.  He also kept bees.  So we were sitting there listening to chickens "amen" our pastor as he preached an evangelistic message, and we were constantly swatting bees out of our hair--not that they were threatening at all.  They were pretty "tame," as bees go, and weren't going to sting anyone without good reason.  It was a pretty remarkable experience being there.

Before the service had even started, this very old woman with a walker had come.  The man's back yard was on a very sharp incline.  It took this lady, with help, about twenty minutes to come down the hill.  It was obvious how badly she had wanted to come.

Well, my pastor preached, the other pastor translated, and the service was over.  I felt pretty useless being there, so I tried to talk to some of the young ladies who had attended.  But small talk is just not my thing.  After saying hello and "I'm glad you came," I ran out of things to say, and my brain froze up.  That happens quite frequently.  So I just walked away in awkward defeat and figured the night was a bust.

But then, as I was gathering my things, the elderly lady called me over.  She started talking and talking, and the guy who was translating for me really didn't have much of an opportunity to get a word in edgewise to tell me what she was saying.  He did manage to tell me that she had been injured and a lady had come to take care of her.  She said that this lady had read the Scriptures to her while taking care of her.  Through the ministry of her caretaker, the old lady had become a Believer, but she wanted to be baptized.  I looked into this dear lady's face and was mesmorized.  She just kept talking, and I felt as though I had met a long-lost sister.  I felt as though I was looking into the face of an angel...perhaps, as the writer of Hebrews described, I was entertaining an angel unaware.

And right after I thought that, the Swiss missionary, the one translating for us said, "She says you have the face of an angel, and that you remind her of the lady who took care of her and read the Scriptures to her."

About that time, another lady came near.  I don't know her exact relation to the older lady, but I could tell that she was either a really close friend or a family member.  She knew a few words in English, enough to learn my name was Ruth.  For some reason that I never learned, this caused an emotional reaction in her.  So I asked her what her name was.  She didn't understand.

The Swiss missionary was still listening to the older woman, so I called the pastor's son over.  I knew his English was good enough to at least ask what someone's name was.  So he did his first translating work and I found out the woman's name was Maria.  Then I asked what the older lady's name was.

It was Elizabeth. 

Elizabeth is a strong name in my family.  It's my oldest niece's name, my sister's middle name, my mother's first name (she goes by her middle name, as I do), my grandmother's middle name, my great-grandmother's middle name, and I don't even know how far it goes back after that.  But I had been sitting there, looking at that dear lady, feeling as though she was my sister, a close part of my family.  Upon learning her name, I also had a very emotional reaction.  I was in tears, just so blessed by that encounter.  And Maria and I wept together, even though we couldn't understand one anothers' language, even though we had just met. 

I spoke with and listened to Elizabeth for a few more minutes, gazing into that dear woman's face.  It really did seem to be the face of an angel, wrinkled and aged as it was.  And I couldn't help but rejoice in the knowledge that One Day I'm going to get to see her again, not bent over in age, not needing a walker.  We'll be able to talk to one another without an interpreter.  And I even felt a little jealous of her, because most-likely, the wait for her won't be nearly as long.  But I'll see her again.  It was such a joyous thing.

After many hugs, we parted, and I was riding back in the van, away from that wonderful village with those wonderful people.  The pastor's son was being funny, as he tends to be quite often.  And I realized he was wearing this bright RED shirt--a baseball shirt.  The team name?  Angels.  I laughed to myself, treasuring the memories I'd just made.  The waking-dream made sense now. 

There's a lot of experiences I'll treasure from Romania, but the people.  It's all about the people.  These are people so different, and yet so similar to us.  I have brothers and sisters a world away, but they are my family.  And I'm praying for them as I also pray for those who are not in my family. 

I don't know what would happen to you if you went on a trip to Romania, to Thailand, to wherever.  But if you've never been out of your country of origin, then you really should go.  There are experiences, places, and people who will change your life.  I'm so glad I went to Romania.  I didn't know why I was going, but I know now. 

I'll never forget the people I met.  They've changed my life forever.  I'm so grateful for the opportunity to have gone.  All glory to the Giver.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Make the Voices Go Away!

The title of this post probably makes me sound like a crazy person, and lately, I've felt a bit like a crazy person.  More than usual, I mean.  This year has been awesome and has been full of a lot of interesting experiences, but it's also been full of a lot of Spiritual Warfare.  I have mentioned that in other posts, and I'm mentioning it again because I'm still very much dealing with it.  Sometimes I deal better than others.

Satan is a subtle guy.  I've written before about how he likes to deal in half-truths, in things that might have a small basis in reality, but he makes them seem bigger, or he twists and distorts them somehow, or he only tells the part of the story that condemns and not the part that redeems.  Satan is a crafty, subtle guy.  And he's got a lot of tricks.  And I haven't always been on guard as much as I really need to be this year.

His newest attack has been distraction, but not in a way I've really been used to before.  The distraction has been cleverly combined with a lot of his previous attacks--mostly ones that have been attacks on my insecurities.  I have a lot of insecurities.  And Satan has cleverly taken those insecurities and used them to put my attention on things that don't really matter.  The trick in this is that if I'm dealing with things that don't really matter, then I'm robbing myself of time that could be better spent on things that really do matter.  And right now, with all that I've got going on, there's a LOT in my life that really matters.

The other day, I let myself get really upset over some comments from someone who I barely know. It was on Facebook, which was also unwise of me. Basically, I just posted a vague, semi-comical statement about how God's teaching me using "helpful people" who aren't really helpful. But suddenly, I had people attacking me because I won't let people help me and I don't like advice. I did state that I wasn't asking for advice in a follow up comment, but that comment should not have been enough to trigger the ridiculousness that followed. There were many incorrect assumptions, many misplaced accusations, even a few insults, and I was sobbing, crying until my eyes were dry, completely broken down by the end of that night.

I kept wondering if there really was something wrong with me (insecurities), wondering if I was doing something to provoke these attacks (it was the second such Facebook encounter in a week--the first one was even more ridiculous). I was hurt because I felt completely ignored when I had tried to state my case. I just was so sick of everything being blown completely out of proportion, sick of fighting with people who had no clue what was really going on.

And I had to really pray through all that, and I realized my sin wasn't that I'd posted vague stuff on Facebook or been honest about not wanting unasked for advice (though I really do need to learn to word things better--I meant no offense, but can see how it might have looked to others). My sin was that I cared too much about what others thought.

I don't like being misunderstood, but people are going to misunderstand, sometimes even after I've explained things a couple times. And in that particular encounter, it would have been prudent to have just stopped talking to the individual who was arguing with me. I spent an evening fretting, stressing over what she and a few others thought, when I could have been doing so many other worthwhile things.  And I barely know this woman. And even if I did know her, that's no reason to keep stating my case over and over and over. There's a point when ridiculousness becomes too ridiculous. I wasn't wise in finding that point, but I'm grateful I found it eventually.

I did start thinking more about why I feel the need to tell people I don't like unasked for advice. It frustrates me, and I guess I never thought about why. I figured it's like door issues-I know I don't like car doors being opened for me, but I can't tell you why. But if someone doesn't respect my right to dislike it, they're going to hear about it.

But I found there is a reason I don't like unasked for advice--especially on social media, where just about anyone can see and answer. I'm insecure. I also think WAY too much about everything. I also read WAY too much into innocent comments. If I've got a conflict or issue, chances are, I've already thought that thing through to death. The LAST thing I need is a bunch of people, some who don't know me well, most who only see the smallest fraction of the whole situation, throwing opinions in my direction.

Satan has been speaking against me, and he's used a lot of well-meaning people. Voices are everywhere, telling me what I should do. And Truth is getting lost in this sea of voices.

So while I'm planning for my important work commitments that I love, I'm getting several odd job offers that are so much worse paying than what I've already committed to do. And people, people with such good intentions, hear just a fraction of the whole story and give me advice that God must be calling me to quit my jobs.

So while I'm struggling to find time and resources to work on the writing God has given me to do, I'm getting suggestions from SO many well-meaning people that I should use my precious time to try to "write" some puff book that no editor would want and that I would never DREAM of "writing."

So while I'm honestly crying out for people to stop adding to the cacophony of voices that are distracting me, I'm getting concern from well-meaning people that I'm wrong for not soliciting everyone on Facebook for advice.

Oh. It's so very, very frustrating.

Don't get me wrong. Counsel is good, if it is good counsel. But if I want advice, if I want counsel, I'm going to go to someone in person. I'm not going to post a vague status on Facebook and let it be a free-for-all. That's just not at all prudent, especially when what I'm needing isn't a lot of opinions from various sources. I need Truth. And, I'm sorry, but just because an opinion is popular, even among Christians, that doesn't necessarily make it true.

So I'm sorry for letting things get to me.  I'm sorry for not always being gracious.  Other people are dealing with Spiritual attacks and insecurity, too.  And I suspect God really is allowing these attacks to help me learn more about being gracious, about learning when to just let things go, even when I'm misunderstood. I want to be respected, but if I want that too much, it's also sinful.

I'm praying God will continue to work in all of us. These aren't easy times, but He is so good. He's walking us through.  Thanks for reading.