"Fullness of life.  Abundant life.  Isn’t that what we all long for?  To have a full life… enjoyment, pleasure, friendship, serving others, rewarding work, freedom, peace.

This verse came to mind as I met with my sports team a few days ago.  Though it still makes the news, bombings and attacks of violence have become the norm of life once again.  Unfortunately, this year the situation seems to be declining, as each month has seen more violence.  In the past few weeks things have hit closer to “home”, as our sports team and sports partners have been impacted.  One team member’s uncle was killed when a bomb attached under his car went off.  A sports leader lost 2 of his sons when they were attending a funeral which was attacked.  My sports friends told me about the horrors they saw upon entering a local hospital after an attack.  One of our guards recently lost his brother-in-law in a bombing.  Such is life here this year.

Following the ups and downs of the past year, with many cancellations of projects and daily plans, the realities and challenges of life have inevitably worn on me.  I also have been increasingly aware of my lack of language skills to effectively communicate with those around me.  Study is good, but the restricted life due to the security situation makes it difficult to progress.  Thus God has led me to temporarily relocate for a season of study and all around life renewal.  I moved in September and plan to be there until next summer, when I’ll go back to the US for a few months, before returning next fall.  My aim is to focus on (the language) and I’ve been blessed with an good teacher, as well as 3-4 other women I meet up with each week to work on language and enjoy hanging out.  Being able to walk freely on my own in the city or pop into a local Starbucks to study a while… wow!  The freedoms and “full life” here are humbling at times, as I bask in it with such gratitude for this much needed season of refreshment.

During this season, however, my city is not far from my thoughts, and I do still plan to travel over for a visit every few months.  I was blessed with the renewal of my one year residency this summer, thus making it relatively easy for me to visit any time.  Currently I am here on one of those visits.  It has been very good to reconnect with sports leaders and my local team.  But it’s difficult witnessing the reality of their lives and the hardships, the fear, the frustration, the hopelessness they encounter every day.  This past week He has afforded me opportunities to just be His presence in their midst, listening with His compassion and love, while also encouraging and speaking His Life and Truth and Peace to their hearts.

The prophet Habakuk cried out to God about the situation around him… cries much like those heard today by many people in the region.  The difference is the hope he found in the salvation of our God.  In spite of all around him, he chose to see things through His eyes; eyes of hope and peace found ultimately in JC alone, the One who brings full, abundant life.  As I shared the Source of true hope and peace and prayed over my sports team at our recent team meeting, I wondered how and when will they ever know the peace that surpasses all understanding?  He is the God of hope when things seem hopeless.  So I trust He is at work in their hearts, drawing them to Himself, that they too might know and experience all that He is.

I will be here one more week before returning to the “freedom” of life in my new location.  My next trip this way will likely be in January, though I’m still able to keep in touch regularly with my friends while away.  I can’t help but feeling a bit “guilty" for the blessings He has bestowed upon me, especially in these days living here.  My dear friend, “Mary”, said the other day, “You know, I don’t want to be here any more. I don’t like my country now. This place is not good. We are destroying everything. Everyone is lying and cheating and you can’t trust anyone. We are afraid for our safety. I ask why God you made me (to live here)? I would prefer (anything else, but why here)?”  How do you reply to that, to the hurt, the frustration, the hopelessness my friends experience here?  While I cannot fully understand or place myself entirely in their shoes, I must pursue His perspective to see how our lives are intertwined for His glory.  His Word says He blesses us so that we might in turn bless others.  The challenge before me is now to seek out and be obedient to how He would have me to share His blessings with my friends and others I may encounter in other places.

Are we being wise stewards of His blessings?  What is He calling us to do with what He has given us… skills, health, talents, finances, abilities, knowledge, freedom?  It is the season of thankfulness and giving.  Interesting the order of those 2 US holidays… our gratitude should cause us to overflow with giving.  He does indeed bless us so that we can in turn bless others.  (Gn.12.2)  I challenge you to search out what that means for you today."