So, this week I am in Istanbul, Turkey. Across the ocean. In a completely different time zone. Waking up when my husband is going to bed. Far. Away. From. Home.
I’ve met a handful of people, both American and Turkish, and the most common question has been, “Why Turkey? Of all the places in the world you could have visited, why did you come to Turkey?” Great question. I flounder and produce an answer that seems fitting to the circumstance of that conversation. Then I walk away and ask,
“Why am I here?”
The process of coming started in January. There was an advertisement at our church that friends in Turkey needed some help with running a retreat for their workers. They were looking for some hands to help prepare and serve meals, as well as provide some childcare for those who needed it in order to be free to attend. As I read it I thought, ‘you know I could do that’. I prepare 3 meals most everyday and look after kids 24/7 so it would not be a stretch to do that for someone else.
There were a myriad of details that needed to line up before I could go of course. If I was preparing meals for others and looking after someone else’s children, who would do those things for my family? I am in school, can I take the time off? Do I have the money to go on the trip? Can I really justify vacating my life for 10 days? I was intrigued by the prospect enough that I started finding the answers for those questions. All the little pieces fell into place, (really easily I might add), and with my husband on deck to look after all aspects of family life in Canada there really wasn’t any reason to not go.
So you could say that I am here simply because opportunity presented itself and I seized it.
But I do not believe in coincidences. I don’t believe that things just happen. I believe that there is a purpose for each activity I am involved in and each opportunity I am presented.
The night that I sat down to write the email committing myself to the trip I got cold feet and started to procrastinate before I hit send. I was perusing Pinterest and came across a quote; “He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25”. Immediately I thought, ‘The Bible doesn’t actually say that!’, (it is the internet after all). Luckily I happened to have a Bible near me and I grabbed it. Sure enough right there in print, in my hands, I saw Proverbs 11:25;
” A generous man will prosper, he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”
That verse jumped off the page and right into my soul. I cannot tell you, friend, how exhausted I have been. Running on fumes for as long as I can remember. I imagine that being my bubbly, happy self looks carefree and easy-(but I’m going to tell you a secret)- being that me is the hardest work I have ever put in to anything.
Naturally I am drawn to all the perks of being a wallflower. I am shy and unsure and awkward. I like quiet. I like to watch reactions and interactions. I like to have my nose shoved in a book. I like to think and process and mull over most everything, without having to explain or share. My most favourite place in the universe is in my bed, under a heavy blanket, with many pillows and books and a giant cup of tea. That is the easy me.
That me is selfish. That me is isolated. That me is lonely. That me is full of doubts and insecurities. That me is not who I was created to be.
I chose, (and it was a conscious choice), that that me is not who I wanted to be. Although it was easy and natural I refused to believe that being that person was what God had in mind for me. I don’t believe His best is for anyone to be lonely, or selfish, or isolated, or insecure.
So I changed, little bits at a time, to saying ‘hello’ first. To sharing what I was thinking. To stop watching interactions, instead engaging in them. To not just watch life but participate in it.
It is a much better version of me. Each person I have met. Every ounce of energy I put in. Every time I make myself believe; ‘you are good enough, you are smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like you!’; it is worth it.
But it is exhausting. And I must constantly choose it. I would be a much different wife if I do not keep making that choice. I would be a much different mother if I do not keep making that choice. I would be a much different friend if I do not keep making that choice.
So you can see how a promise like, ‘he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed’, is one I needed. To grab hold of and trust it would be fulfilled. To take some time in a completely unfamiliar situation, where everything is new to let a new truth sink in.
Because, it won’t just be true here in Istanbul.
Sometimes we need to step out of our everyday lives to see something new. Sometimes we need to shake it up to remember things we have forgotten. Sometimes we need to be looking wide-eyed at everything to remember what we already know.
Every time I prepare a meal at home, or volunteer at my Church, or call a friend who is on my mind, or do any of the million things I do every day that serve someone- I am refreshing another. Every time I smile at someone, or hug someone, or offer a word of encouragement- I am refreshing another. Every time I tell my husband I love him, or my children that I am proud of them, or my friends that I am so happy to know them- I am refreshing another. And God promises that because of that I will be refreshed.
I think that is a reason why I am in Istanbul this week. Maybe it’s because I didn’t know that promise before. Or maybe it’s because I had forgotten it. Or maybe it’s just time for me to actually learn it.
A wise woman in my life always says: “Be blessed. Be a blessing.” That’s a promise you can take to the bank, and I’m ready to learn how to make that deposit.