Six lessons in six months.

Today marks six months. Six months of what you may ask. Well, six months since I started a new job in Philadelphia, six months since I left my family after attending my grandfather’s funeral, six months since moving from my “City of Dreams” to the city of “Has potential, Needs Improvement”, and six months since I said my “so longs” and “see you laters” to my community and began long-distance relationships with each of them.

Six months is such a long time. And six months is a blink of an eye. These past six months have been hard, oh so hard, but they have been incredibly good to me.

I like to call these my “beauty from ashes” months.

And lessons were taught and attempted to be learned. Here are six those.

1.) It’s okay to admit hard things are hard. I traveled for 13 weeks with few breaks this last fall and I’m currently on a two week tour of the Midwest for work. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but there were dark days. When I finally admitted that being away from home and splitting my time between airports, hotel rooms, and unfamiliar college campuses was not the most glamorous of lifestyles, I had the freedom to be okay with the bad days. Accepting the bad days made the good days that much better.

2.) Sometimes eating alone can be more life-giving and peace-bringing than other things you expect to be life-giving and peace-bringing. I still prefer sharing my meals with friends and family, but after hours of talking with students and staff, you realize there is hardly any time to think. I have started to use my alone meal times for devotionals and reflection. See, life-giving and peace-bringing.

3.) Even if you basically live in airports, hotels, and unfamiliar college campuses for thirteen weeks straight, there is still time to make time. Make time for friends, for family, for God. These things are important and will keep a busy person (and not-so-busy person) sane.

4.) If you put your heart to it, long-distance relationships will be fine. Actually, they’ll be better than fine, they’ll flourish. Again, there is always time for these relationships. I have the best friends and family. They’ve made living in Flipadelphia and traveling so much more meaningful and joyful.

5.) There are few things more important than being with family in times of struggle and heartbreak. ‘Nough said.

6.) Eucharisteo is vulnerable. Eucharisteo is necessary. In the midst of struggle, newness, and change, being thankful is hard; I know from experience. Choosing to be thankful and living in a eucharisteo way is allowing yourself to break down the walls you’ve built and say “yea, things are hard and they are new, but I’m thankful for this journey.” It changes perspective. It changes lives.

Six lessons in six months. Here’s to years more of learning.

Home Away from Hope: Learning to Give Thanks

“Eucharist (thanksgiving) is the state of the perfect man. Eucharist is the life of paradise. Eucharist is the only full and real response of man to God’s creations, redemption, and gift of heaven.” -Alexander Scheming

It seems unreal that it’s been just over three months since I packed up my Northeast Minneapolis home, loaded my car with my essential items for living (read: every single pair of shoes I own), and wished Minneapolis a temporary good-bye. I left Minneapolis knowing I would return one day soon, but my heart was heavy nonetheless. I was moving to Philadelphia to begin an eight-month position working for a university in the northern suburbs recruiting for study abroad programs and learning about the field of education abroad. I was happy and sad. I was excited and terrified. I felt joy and sorrow. I feel like I’ve been living life in juxtaposition since July, but through that God has been teaching me incredible amounts about who He is, whom He created me to be, and the purpose behind this move.

I’d be lying to you if I said this move has been easy. I’d be lying to you if I said this move was exactly what I wanted. I even prayed to the Lord after my interviews to not allow a job offer to happen if it wasn’t exactly where I was suppose to be in this season. Well, imagine my shock, excitement, and horror when my now boss called me to offer me the position. I spent many days talking with friends and family processing through the offer, and spent seemingly countless nights lying awake trying to figure out what I had gotten myself into. In the end, I did accept the position (obviously—I kinda spoiled that at the beginning) and I did move out to Philadelphia and God is graciously teaching me about lots of things, especially thankfulness.

I’m in the process of reading 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I started this book while I was on a plane, after a long week of lots of travel for my job. I was feeling tired, cranky, not excited to be flying back to Philadelphia…just very unthankful. Her words smacked me directly between my eyes.

“The greatest thing is to give thanks for everything. He who has learned this knows what it means to live…He has penetrated the whole mystery of life: giving thanks for everything.”

“The only real fall of man is his noneucharistic life in a noneucharistic world.”

“…the only way to be a woman of prayer is to be a woman of thanks.”

These words brought me out of my broken, selfish, unthankful self to a place where I could see my sin and the ugliness of living life in a noneucharistic way.

With the traveling nature of my job and living in a brand new place, I have the temptation to close up, have the mindset to just “get the job done,” then come back to Minneapolis where I can begin to live again. Friends, let me tell you, this is not how God lets us function. Jesus is good to us for not letting us hole up in ourselves for too long. He is good to us for letting us read words that will speak directly to our core. He is good to us for showing us that there are things to be thankful for in this life.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

So what does this mean for the rest of my time in Philadelphia? It means that I get to have God continue to redeem me into a more whole Kari. This means that I get to fight through the times I would much rather live a noneucharistic life in a noneucharistic world because it seems easier. This also means that I get to scream EUCHARISTEO! to the ends of the earth and worship our Lord, our Lord who gives us the good days, shows us through the hard days, and loves us unconditionally.

Check out http://www.womenathope.com for more stories from Jesus-loving, God-fearing women.

Silence.

A couple times over the last two weeks,
I’ve had the chance to literally just sit outside in silence. I can hear the crickets buzz and birds chirp. My mind and heart settle peacefully and it’s as if I can have an uninterrupted relationship with God. It’s so good for my soul, for my heart; a perfect way to clear my mind. God has given me these moments to show me how good it is to sit in silence sometimes. I wouldn’t be able to hear certain things if I don’t.

20130825-051955.jpg

incredible.

i am learning an incredible amount here in philadelphia.

21438_10100330739118663_1237108198_n

God is blowing my mind with His faithfulness and grace toward me. He is showing me the importance of prayer. Prayer changes things. God listens. I’ve known this in theory for years. I’ve been learning this in such a deep way this week. I’m excited to see what God has in store.

I am learning the ins and outs of education abroad. I am feeling confident in what I’m learning and I’m feeling excited to finally get out on the road to start putting to use all the information occupying my mind.

935111_10100331985111683_953092605_n

It’s okay to not be busy every day. I love being busy, but I need to make room for Jesus. My schedule is not as packed as it has been the last few months and I’m taking advantage of spending that time with the Lord. This is training for me because when I get back to Minneapolis in March, by the grace of God, this will continue.

There are people of faith all of the country, who love Jesus and who love God’s children. I have gotten to experience that through reconnecting with an old friend and her husband. I have gotten to experience that through the women’s bible study I’ve joined. It’s amazing the way God works in different parts of the country, heck, world.

Mostly though, I am experiencing and learning about God’s character, who He is, and who He will continue to be. It is really is incredible. God is incredible. Really incredible (thus why I am giving two thumbs up below).998758_10100330722681603_1520939251_n

week 1: #karimovestophilly

63895_10100327052666343_927063418_n

It’s officially been 8 day since I stepped foot on Philadelphia soil. These 8 days have been long. I miss Minneapolis, my friends and family, and my routine. But these days have also gone by so quickly. My head is filled with so much knowledge about higher education, education abroad, and Arcadia University in general. July has been the month of change and I’m trying to figure out my new normal. It’s been hard, but it will be worth it. I’m looking forward to learning more at work and getting on the road. I’m looking forward to exploring Philadelphia and I’m looking forward to establishing a new routine! I’m also looking forward to visitors (hint, hint). There’s a lot to look forward to!!

1001383_10100327054173323_610457872_n

Praises:
-Time spent with family and friends in Wisconsin and Minneapolis before I left.
-Safe travels from Minneapolis to Madison back to Minneapolis to Oshkosh to McFarland to Pittsburgh to Philadelphia. A lot of miles were put on the cars and 0 incidents to report.
-For my Mom and Kelly-the two ladies who lovingly drove to Philadelphia and back home for me. They put up with my anxiety. They put up with my crabbiness. They put up with me as I felt every emotion on the spectrum. They are amazing. I love them.
-For God’s presence and calming spirit, especially over the last couple of weeks. While there was a lot happening that needed my attention, I got through it by grace alone. So thankful.

Prayer Requests:
-That week 2 at work will be just a productive as week 1.
-That I will continue to meet people and connect with co-workers.
-That I would continue to connect with the women at the bible study I started attending last week (4 week study on 1 John) and that God would bless me with a church family.
-That will find time to be in the Word and prayer this week
-For my lovely friend, Stephanie, who is moving to Hong Kong at the end of the month-that she will have safe travels, uneventful times going through customs, fun meeting all the other teachers at her school, and adventures as she figures out her new normal.

1016938_10100327380479403_558956665_n

Reflecting on the Future: Northern Ireland Part 3

Since the first time I left Northern Ireland in 2009, I have been scheming to find ways to return. At first, I planned a vacation in 2010, then after that I began applying to work for a Christian-based conflict and reconciliation center for peace. That opportunity, which I had really had my heart set on, quickly closed its door. Discouraged, I began to think about graduate school and started pursuing options to study in Northern Ireland again. The last time I was over in Northern Ireland, I met with a recruiter from a well-known university. Being a college recruiter myself, I wanted her to tell me how to make my dreams come true and move back to Northern Ireland. Much to my dismay, she told me exactly the opposite:

“With your interests and career goals, we just don’t have any degree programs to match that.” 

I nodded my head in silence as I watched my dreams fly away. I asked the recruiter what she suggested. She told me to pursue a degree in the States that more closely match my career aspirations. “If you’re meant to return back to Northern Ireland, Kari, you will.”

Those words both stung and encouraged me. They sting because I think I know what I want, and I don’t want anyone to tell me about what I’m “meant to do”. They encourage because I am not in control and sometimes that’s a huge relief.

I’ve recently been struggling through the question: how do I look forward and plan without worshipping the future?

I’m really good at creating idols. Most recently, my idols come in the form of decision making, future plans, and the all-power “What’s next?” I feel like I’m currently in a season of life where my “what’s next” is totally up in the air. I still have the desire to move back to Northern Ireland one day, but I don’t know if that’s in the cards. I want to get my master’s degree, I’m just not sure when or where.

I’ve come to realize that I have a choice in whether to worship the future or worship God. It’s a matter of me continually learning to trust the Lord with my plans and realizing that the things that I think I want maybe aren’t as good as the things that He has for me. It’s a tough place for me to be in as I’m a planning and want to know what my future holds. However, it’s a beautiful thing when I am willing to submit to the Lord and allow him to sanctify me through the waiting.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, submit to him and he will make your path straight.”
Proverbs 3:5-6

Reflecting on my Sin: Northern Ireland Part 2

I’ll be the first one to tell you that I am not a reflective person. I don’t like to circle my thoughts around one specific topic or event. I think I just get bored really quickly. However, I will be the first one to tell you that I have a desire to be more reflective in my approach to doing life. The results of me sitting down and thinking through certain events or processing with a friend are certainly productive, and I can see how God uses these moments to allow me to grow in Christ-like character. Here are the results of one of my most recent processing sessions after my trip to Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland is a restful place. It’s a place with little anxiety and stress. However, during my last trip, there were moments of reflection, particularly on my sin.

I get it, God. I’m a broken person; I am a sinner. I have a deep, deep need for a Savior and for redemption. I understand the Gospel. I know, God.

But do I, really? Do I really realize how broken I really am? When push comes to shove, would I introduce myself as a “sinner” to someone I just met? Do I understand really how deep my need for the Lord is?

For some reason, when I travel, I feel like I can just leave my sin at home in Minneapolis. Leaving the physical place where I “do life” detaches me from my sin there. I convince myself that I am immune to sin when I am on the road. It’s not that I consider myself “perfect” by any means, but rather, I just don’t see myself as broken. I don’t feel the weight of my sin nearly has much as I do at home.

This particular reflection came to me during one evening after a fun-filled day with friends. I remember lying in bed and feeling like a ton of bricks had hit me. Without giving too much detail, I had a couple interactions with people early that day that made me think more than once “Wow, this entire world is broken. There are sinners living here, not just in Minneapolis.”

For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.
Romans 14:7-9

I understand how silly a thought that is. My head knows. It completely understands that this entire world is a fallen world and sin has entered it and will not be fully redeemed until Jesus returns. But it wasn’t until that moment that I truly felt my emptiness without Christ. I remember there being a pit in my stomach, tears falling from my eyes and praying to the Lord to forgive me for neglecting to understand my extreme need for a Lord and Savior, who is mighty to save. And there was grace received.