Our Story, Uncategorized

Weary World Rejoice

This time of year the sun dawdles just below the horizon, drowsily rising at 8 AM. It hangs in the sky, yawning and stretching and covering itself with a blanket of clouds, its rays dim and hidden, only to slump below the horizon again at 5 PM.

An hour before the winter sunrise, I pad into the living room, the floor cool beneath my feet, fumbling for my slippers in the dark. There’s a baby on my hip and a portable space heater on the other. For the past week my daughter has consistently woken up past 7 AM (I’m totally jinxing this just by writing it out, I know), sleeping in for me but too early for the sun. Anxious for any semblance of a routine with a 6-month-old, I make it a point to plug in the Christmas tree lights first thing every morning. The string of lights illuminates the room, sending a smattering of colored circles across the walls. It’s quiet and dark in the house, and we watch the blinking tree for a while before I set her down on a quilt, plug in the heater, and start the coffee machine. Outside the streets are black and asleep. She coos into the silence.

2020 has stumbled forward at an awkward pace, vacillating between a dash and a drag. The last twelve months have brought up so much darkness bubbling just under the surface. No one has come out on the other side escaping cuts and bruises (some more than others). And in the nights that stretch longer and longer, minute by minute, the shortest day and longest night is fast approaching.

There’s a Persian holiday called Yalda Night (or Shab-e Cheleh), a celebration of the winter solstice on December 21st. Persians gather together, typically at the eldest family member’s home, once the sun sets, eating pomegranates, watermelon, and nuts, drinking tea, reading poems, and dancing into the early hours of the morning. It’s a way to pay tribute to the longest night of the year, knowing the next day will begin the slow walk to longer daylight—light’s victory over darkness.

In the Christian church, the liturgical season of Advent begins at the beginning of the month of December and ends on Christmas Eve. This time feels sacred because so much of it is steeped in waiting—something that has become so familiar to my family over the last few years. Advent is that messy and holy in-between where the night feels long and yet we know morning is coming.

In our little corner, grief and longing thread themselves among the holiday season. They do this time every year. My husband and I grieve over another year spent an ocean away from our families, raising a child in a place we did not choose. We long for my husband’s immigration process to move forward, the travel ban to be lifted. We find ourselves in the middle of the second wave of COVID restrictions in Turkey, with full weekend lockdowns, limited home gatherings, and daily curfews. We grieve over the sick and long for the health and safety of our friends and family. Layer upon layer of uncertainty cloaks our lives.

During the Christmas season, we wait for God made flesh, God who is already here. I also find myself waiting and hoping for peace and healing. I’d like to hope that as we enter a new year, we would begin again to welcome refugees and those fleeing their homes; we would extinguish the flames of racism and do the hard work of recognizing how white supremacy manifests in our own lives, acknowledging the ugly under belly of our nation; and we would listen and learn from marginalized communities and those who have felt unseen, unsafe, and unheard. I carry these prayers with me, for my own heart, into the coming new year—a clean slate, new mercies, a time to begin again.

So tomorrow, fresh after two days of complete lockdown, we will walk to my mother-in-law’s home down the road, carrying pomegranates and gifts. While COVID means our Christmas season will feel different, we look forward to introducing our daughter to Yalda Night, a pre-Christmas celebration, and hope for the day when all our family members can be together. We will celebrate the end of the lingering nights and welcome the start of longer, brighter days.

So, weary world, may we rejoice in a God who is familiar with the darkness and yet invites us and fills us with divine hope. Victory of light over darkness is coming. We know this because we know the end of the story. Let us come together this Christmas season, breathe a sigh of relief, and wait for the coming Light (and perhaps enjoy a pomegranate or two).


Photo by Pratiksha Mohanty on Unsplash

Our Story

Home, But Not Really

Nope, no balloons yet.

I let the curtain fall back and silently tiptoe out of the bedroom. At half past six this time of year the sun takes its sweet time pushing past the horizon and with it, the hot air balloons. They won’t be hanging in the sky for at least another hour. 

In the coolness of the dark November morning, I grab a sweatshirt and two thick socks, hopping on one foot while putting them on, taking care not to bump into any plastic bins and cardboard boxes strewn about in the corners of the hallway. A mop, a broom, tape, and a bursting black garbage bag lay obediently on the ground just as they were left the day before in the frenzy of moving. 

In Route

After the US’s travel ban was enacted in early 2017, we pieced together a sweet and simple wedding here in Turkey and moved into a 200 sq foot furnished apartment. Nesting our new humble home was pretty nonexistent save for a few picture frames and house plants (that may have caused a few arguments). We conceded to living among someone else’s couches and dinner plates and made it work with a dorm sized refrigerator and a bedroom with no window.

This was all well and good because in the next two months — three tops — we’d be gone. This administration is crazy right now but they’ll figure something out. They can’t do this forever, right?

The oversized suitcases perched on top of our wardrobe served as a reminder of the state of our hearts. We were in route, a short stopping point along the way. Roots shallow and our minds in another part of the world. This is just a minor blip in the plan. No big deal.

It didn’t happen all at once, like a ton of bricks hitting my chest. It was more of a slow realization, a gradual drip of understanding that, yes, this was a big deal. And, now 18 months later, we’d probably be here a lot longer than we imagined. 

Temporarily Permanent 

As the brewing of the coffee slows, I fish a mug out from one of the cardboard boxes and lift off the week-old newspaper surrounding it, serving as a temporary protection while it jostled in a van across town. 

I glance at the inked headlines before crumpling it up into the garbage. “CRISIS AT BORDER”, “CALIFORNIA SHOOTING KILLS 12”, “FIVE MIGRANTS DIE AFTER BOAT SINKS OFF TURKEY”

My heart heaves a heavy sigh as it thumps with anger and disappointment. Our prayers aren’t working. Things are getting worse. 

I look around at the boxes and plastic bags – so many plastic bags that I’m sure they’re multiplying – dirty rags and cleaning bottles. Did we make the right decision? Our move shows that we are reluctantly planting roots and watering it with couches, kitchen gadgets, and bedding. Is this a surrender? 

Changing Seasons

It seemed appropriate that the last morning in our studio apartment was the first day it snowed here. It wasn’t much and it melted as soon as it hit the ground, but it felt like a silent signal of the changing seasons, those strange few weeks that squeeze themselves between autumn and winter.

We find ourselves saying “happy and sad” a lot in our conversations. Feeling the tension of juggling two opposite emotions. And we now feel the balancing act of wanting to push forward and move on coupled with the roots that are sprouting from the soles of our feet. 

While not yet Thanksgiving, the approaching holiday season is before us as is the coming of the birth of Christ. Advent. A time of looking forward with anticipation to the Messiah as the baby in Bethlehem. It’s a season where our hearts yearn for Christ to come and set things right – in our messy selves and in this broken world. 

I think there’s a lot to be said on how the God of the Universe sent his only Son into the world. Here, in this mess, to live and dwell among us. God’s heart is to renew all things. Everything he does is backed by his desire for redemption. As I read the angry, screaming headlines while unpacking our belongings in our new and less-temporary home, I know that Christ is here with us and will one day set things right. We all find ourselves feeling the tension of the already and not yet of the Kingdom.

New Rhythms

There’s something about moving that forces us to reevaluate and re-rhythm our life. With the plastic bins, painters tape and the sharpie scratched across, we are forced to throw out the things we no longer need and keep and treasure the things we do. There are new routines to figure out, like when and how often to do laundry (and to be strategic when washing when there is no dryer). 

It’s an opportunity to re-rhythm our hearts too. Throw out the bad, hold fast to the good. While we prayed a lot about the decision to move, I still felt shaky. I felt shaky even when we made the countless trips down three flights of emergency exit stairs, carrying mirrors and plants and boxes. I felt shaky when we closed the door to the tiny space that was ours for a year and a half.

This isn’t the move we have been praying and hoping for. We don’t want to move across town; we want to move across the world. This new apartment is more expensive. How are we going to pay the bills and the heighten electricity costs? Thoughts of uncertainty swirled in my brain. 

This morning though, as I stood in our new kitchen, looking out at a new and unfamiliar view, I felt the Lord whisper the beginning lines of Psalm 23: “The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want”.

I shall not want. I will lack nothing. God, with his father heart, is my shepherd. 

“There has to be at least 50!” I’m back in bed with my husband now, second cup of coffee in hand and he’s counting the balloons from our window. The curtains have been pushed back and the lazy sun has begun to make an appearance. All at once, it seems, bursts of colorful balloons suspend low in the sky. It’s still dark enough to see the giant puffs of fire surging up into the hollows of the balloons. I curl up under the blankets thinking of the eager tourists braving the cold morning air, 20 clustered into each basket. 

Deciding to move was a huge leap of faith. It’s not what we wanted to do, but we trust that God is bigger than we can understand and we know that Christ is near. Our step of faith made however reluctantly won’t go unnoticed. Things will be made right.

For now, we will enjoy the view.