July 1, 2010

The Journey

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , at 11:55 pm by Tamara

I sat in a far corner of the bustling terminal, dressed in pants and a long cotton coat in spite of the stifling heat.  The most amazing thing, however, was the scarf covering my hair and wrapped around my shoulders.  I’d been waiting long months, months full of endless preparations, worry, details, communication, and tears.  Now, at long last, I had arrived in the airport in Dubai, pulled that scarf out of my suitcase and carefully placed it on my head.  It was like becoming someone else.

The exhausted knot of worry in my stomach was accompanied by a leaden feeling that seemed to slug through my veins.  I was terrified.  Through the entire lonely trip I’d felt distant and removed, like I was watching myself in a movie.  I found myself repeating an inner monologue as though I was commenting on my life from outside.

What am I doing?  I’m not brave!  Why am I here?  What was I thinking?  I can’t do this.  I’m not…brave.

It was like I’d had delusions of grandeur and suddenly realized they’d gotten me in way over my head.  Was I really here, and really about to go there?  It almost seemed hilarious to me, like a farce.  What EVER made me think I could do this?

But, like a robot, I had packed my suitcases, walked though airport security, boarded one plane, then another, then another, until suddenly I found myself on the other side of the world, with burqa-clad women bustling around me, listening numbly as the swirling tones of Arabic carried through the humid air, staring up at spiraling mosque turrets and quickly lowering my gaze from the prying eyes of dark-skinned, turbaned men.

One more plane, and the long, exhausting hours of sitting and rumbling would be over.  One more plane to board, and I’d be there.  The place I’d prayed over, agonized over, longed for.  Afghanistan.  I was going.

What was I thinking?

Before I knew it I was staring out the plane window as we took off.  It was final now—terrified or not, I was being hurtled towards Afghanistan.  Where was the excitement?  How many years had I ached to be right where I was now, about to step onto Muslim land?  But all I felt was numb inadequacy.

Hello, Lord, I said, reaching for that connection, desperate to know I wasn’t alone.  It was like grabbing for a rope and pulling, trying to get closer to my anchor, wanting to feel the tension on the line that meant God was on the other end of it.

After an hour that felt like minutes we started our decent, and I reached up to make sure my headcovering was in place.  It was going to take a while to get used to this.  I pulled my camera out and held it at arms-length, forcing a brave smile.  Click, and it was real.  Me, in a headcovering, flying into Afghanistan.  Exhausted, grimy, unsure, but going.

I looked out the window.  The clouds were beginning to wisp away, letting green smudges melt through.  The smudges became more clear, rising up to form gray-green mountain ranges, then sinking down into flat, bright green fields.  This was it: my first sight of a place I’d prayed for for so long.  Tiny, weather-beaten houses began to dot the landscape, and I felt a quiver go through me, like a spark of light in a dark room.  The land continued to take shape; I could see fields, houses, people, roads.  The flicker began to spread, sending warmth gently from my heart down to my fingertips.

Afghanistan.  It was here.  I was here.

Suddenly the fear seemed to be dripping and mingling with the slowly pulsing beat of excitement.  I grasped that excitement with amazement.  At last, there it was!  Suddenly I felt again what I’d felt for years—a longing, broken-hearted desire to touch this place, to step onto the ground with light and truth.  To see the darkness shattered.  In that moment my heart broke with the overwhelming feeling that I was loved and not alone.  I could feel his hands around my heart, infusing the broken pieces with love and strength and momentum.  Cradling my heart above this place I’d ached for so long, ready to let the pieces fall like seeds in the desert.

The plane landed, and I gathered my things, checked my head covering and walked to the door.  I stepped outside, walked down the steps, and put my foot on the ground.

I was here.  Afghanistan.

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July 30, 2009

Afghan School Teaching Girls

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged at 3:14 pm by Tamara

IMG_0420This Afghan high school is teaching girls alongside boys and being threatened because of it.  An interesting article and reminder to pray for Afghanistan and this school!

June 18, 2009

A La Carte

Posted in Water Droplets tagged , at 2:20 pm by Tamara

It’s been hitting me repeatedly lately that this time last year I was in Afghanistan.  I can’t believe it’s been a year.  Part of me can’t even believe I was there.  Memories have been flooding me like crazy—I want to get more of them down on paper.  The emotions attached to those memories are still so sharp it surprises me.

I’ve been packing for this weekend, and my carryon suitcase still has the “Dubai International Airport” stickers on it.  What a trip.  I was thinking today about the guy who weighed my suitcase in Dubai and then ran after me to point out to me in stuttering English that he purposefully hadn’t charged me the whole rate.  I have my suspicions as to that guy’s human status (entertaining angels?) but at the least I know it was a post card from God to remind me that He had everything under control, including the precious contents of my suitcases.

The old itch to write is back with a fury.  I used to spend hours of my free time as a teenager in the library, pouring over Writer’s Digest books on writing technique.  I feel  like for the past—oh, more than five years, God’s been telling me to wait.  Gradually lately I’ve been wondering if He’s now telling me to go.  I’m scared out of my wits, though.  One comment from someone who doesn’t like a book I like (not even criticism of MY writing!), and I’m a wreck.  I’ll never get anywhere with my own writing if I don’t get over THAT.  I’ve been pouring as much prayer into whether I should try again as I’ve been pouring over my story.  I have every intention of that continuing….

And that, is a few unrelated water droplets of my life lately.  Thank you, thank you very much!