Friday, June 3, 2016

Seasons ...



Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife
In five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure a year in the life?
How about love?
How about love?
How about love?
Measure in love

This song from Rent is a favourite for me because it says so much (and the harmonies rock).  This is the time of year I don't like.  Sometimes this time of year is easier than others, but this year ... oh this year.  This year it feels like pieces of me are being ripped out.

When you live life as an expat, Goodbyes are part of the cycle.  Sometimes you say so many goodbyes you don't want to form the relationships because relationships take time and quality relationships don't exist without sowing pieces of yourself into the relationship.  And holes are left when people move on.  Since being away, my metaphor for this has been a beautiful woven, handmade carpet.

Threads of different colours ... each one individual ... each one just a coloured thread, nothing special.  Yet ... when the master artist takes those threads and begins to weave, magic happens.  Threads are woven together, irrevocably, and something new ... something different ... something stunning emerges.  For a time the threads stay together and and its beautiful ... but every weaving has a point where the threads stop weaving together ... that work is done.  individual threads run out the ends once more ... and the weaving is cut from the loom.

Right now I am struggling with the cut.  It hurts.  It's so incredibly painful I can't even speak of it and I know that I am not the only one.  We say our goodbyes but we don't.  We laugh.  We cry.  We say "it's not goodbye ... I will be seeing you".  But in reality, who knows what life will bring.  And when you are in other countries spread out around the world, sometimes the world is a very big place.  And whilst social media and technology go a long way to closing that gap, they don't.  We now trade late night cups of coffee or card games and trash talk for a two line status update on someones life.  When you have been woven together with someone ... when you have walked through the deepest darkest valleys with them ... when you have scaled the heights ... when you have laughed ... cried ... sworn ... broken bread together ... seen each other at best and at worst ... the cutting of the threads is an excruciating thing.  So how do we deal with this grief ... with this sense of loss?

And here is where I love the lyrics of RENT
It's time now to sing out
Though the story never ends
Let's celebrate
Remember a year in the life of friends
Remember the love
(Oh, you got to, you got to remember the love)
Remember the love
(You know that love is a gift from up above)
Remember the love
(Share love, give love, spread love)
Measure in love
(Measure, measure your life in love)
Seasons of love (love)
Seasons of love (love)
(Measure your life, measure your life in love)
A spot of bother in the garden ...

Its's all about LOVE.  I would never trade the heartache and grief of these goodbyes because my life is so much richer for the weaving.  The gifts of friendship and love are irreplaceable.  You cannot buy them.  You cannot manipulate your way into having them.  They are freely given yet priceless in value.  


I have nothing but gratitude for this season and this time with these people I love.  I cannot imagine my life without these people in it.  There are people who walk through life in poverty.  Not material poverty ... I am speaking of the poverty of never understanding what it is to be loved and to love others.  To have the richness and depth of friendships where you have been woven with others and walked together for seasons, being intricately and intimately involved ... knowing the imperfections, the twists, the knots and seeing that they just add to the beauty of the weaving.

To my loved ones ... Coco, Heather, Nicole, Jeff, Aisha, Nicholas and Elise, who are closing a big chapter in their life journey and beginning the next ... my prayer for you is that you walk in freedom and peace ... knowing that he who led you here is leading you on ... he goes before you, behind you and his hand is upon you.  I love you.  I am forever grateful for all you are.  It has been my privilege ... my joy and my gift to walk with you in this season.  My heart goes with you.  Be free. xxx


Psalm 139
You hem me in behind and before
You have laid your hand upon me ...
If I rise on the wings of the dawn 
and settle on the far side of the sea, 
even there your hand will guide me
your right hand will hold me fast ... 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Rain

Reading a blog buddy's post tonight and it reminded me of this song/prayer I wrote a few years ago, so I picked up my guitar to share with her.  Maybe the prayer in it will resonate with you.  Please forgive the strings that need replacing and fingers and a voice that have not made music in months, and just hear the prayer.  Lyrics below ...


Let It Rain from Sarah Carpenter on Vimeo.

Rain
In this desert place
Lord I seek your face
Come rain ... on me
Rain on me

In this dry and barren land
Lord stretch out your hand
Come rain ... on me
Rain on me

Lord I need you
And I want you
Rain ... rain on me

You're my lover
There's no other
Rain ... rain on me

Only you can satisfy
Living water
Come bring new life

Let it rain
Streams of living water flow
Come rain
On me

Let it rain
I reach my hand
cry out for you
my rain
Come rain
On me

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Seasons

If you are an expat, May and June can be difficult.  It's farewell season.  Some years are harder than others and this year is a particularly hard one, as there have been too many farewells to people who are significant in my life and mean a lot to me.  These are the farewells where you feel raw.  Where there is a certain amount of grief.  I notice that none of us like to say "goodbye" ... its always, "see you later", "see you on Skype ... Facebook" ...  etc.  Promises made of visits.  But in the end, the threads of the fabric you have woven together are still  untangled and cut - and there is a certain level of rawness and grief that goes with that.  It hurts.

What I do choose to focus on, is the beauty of what has been woven together in this specific season.  Yuri Kochiyama (who was a Japanese American human rights activist) nailed it when she said, "Life is not what you alone make it.  Life is the input of everyone who touched your life and every experience that entered it.  We are all part of one another."

Although it hurts to say farewell, I would never forgo the hurt.  It only hurts because there is love involved.  To my beautiful friends who are leaving this year and to my friend who has already left - thank you.  Thankyou for love, laughter and friendship.  Thankyou for opening yourself to me.  Thank you for travelling with me on life's journey and becoming part of the fabric of my life.  This one is for YOU.



Seasons of Love from Sarah Carpenter on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What's In Your Hand?

In Exodus 4, God and Moses are having a discussion.  Well, rather, God is telling Moses to go and Moses is coming up with all the reasons why he is not equipped.  God says to Moses, "What's that in your hand? … Use that!" 

What's in your hand?

I have been giving a lot of thought to that over the past week.  Ask yourself that question - "What is in YOUR hand"?  

Everyone of us is wired a certain way.  Psalm 139 tells us that we were woven together in the secret place … that God's eyes saw our unformed body and that all our days were written in his book before one of them came to be.  We were made ON PURPOSE FOR A PURPOSE.  And here is the thing.  Often, we don't give credit to that which is in our hand, and often we don't use that for God's glory because we are overfamiliar with it and we discount it.  We don't value what it is that God has placed in us.

The thing is, if we use what is in our hand - the gifts and abilities that God has given us; if we surrender our own plans and purposes to those of God; if we look to use what is in our hand to bless others, it can be an incredible powerful, beautiful thing.  We can make our world a different place - little things and big things.  It is not ours to worry about how they will be useful, just sow them out as seeds and see what happens. 


Here are a couple of examples of exactly that, to get you thinking.  When I was in gorilla trekking in Uganda last year, Jenny and I visited several community projects.  Perhaps my favourite one was "Ride 4 A Woman", in Buhoma, near the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.  This group of women are doing some awesome things.  Their initial project didn't take off the way they wanted, but an Australian quilter came through one day and showed them how to quilt.  These ladies now make the most incredible handmade quilted products, using all african fabrics.  That quilter took something everyday that she could do, gave it away by teaching others, and is changing countless lives of women and their families.  She could have said, "well I am not a nurse, a doctor, or a teacher.  What difference can i make?"  Instead, she offered up the little she had.  It's like the loaves and fishes in John 6.  Jesus took the simple things a young boy offered, multiplied them and fed a huge hungry crowd.  This is the amazing thing that can happen, when we take what is in our hand and offer it to God, giving it away.



Another example.  Simplicity itself.  I love photography.  I offered to take pictures in North Korea when I was up there on a medical aid trip.  The photos I took, whilst I didn't think were anything amazing, were exactly the type of pics the organisation needed.  People photography is not even my strength, but I understood light, angles and prayed to capture the moments.   I was invited back to take pictures again because they were so happy with them.  Add to that, I have taken on the media and the blogging and video making for our fundraising to support this organisation.  Its time consuming, but I can blog, I can use words to connect and I love to create with video.  Those photos and videos have been used to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for MDR TB treatment.  A simple thing.  Using the little thing in my hand, magnified by God, changes lives.

Another simple one.  Words is something I can do.  This past week, I have taken the time to give back in the form of words with the intention of blessing.  I have been intentional and asked God to help me write in a way that is truthful and encouraging - a way that will lift up.  I don't know the impact of those, but I do know that I wanted to give them away to be a blessing as I had been blessed.



Yet another.  I have a friend who is amazing at hospitality.  She loves to cook … is a chef, and does hospitality at an amazing level.  It's just a normal thing for her - something she loves to do.  She has used this gift to bless many people.  She has also put up multiple brunches each year for the past few years in our silent auction for our TB care centre fundraising.  Something simple, multiplied, is changing lives in North Korea.


A final example.  I have a friend who has been doing cross fit and bootcamp coaching here on a campus for the past couple of years.  Again something simple.  A trainer.  He was an awesome trainer, but in the way that we do, we could just say, well its just training.  But it wasn't.  He has just left us and the impact that he has had in this community has been huge.  For kids and adults alike.  Lives have been changed and transformed.  Did he try to do that?  No … he used what was in his hand and just functioned in who he was wired to be as a person to build people.  And for some of us it was life changing.  God multiplies.

Don't discount or undervalue the things that are in your hand.  A little boy rocked up to Jesus with 5 loaves and two fishes.  He could have been laughed out … "Really?  There are 5000 hungry people here and you bring us 5 loaves and 2 fishes?  Really?"  But he gave away what he had, and he trusted God to do the work with his offering.  What's in your hand?  Get intentional about giving it away.  Sow it out there and see what God can do!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

When The Unexpected Happens ...



Sometimes we have the illusion that life is under control.  More specifically, we can think life is under OUR control.  And then … the unexpected happens.  Something happens and we realise that the idea of us being in control is an illusion.  In a heartbeat … in a moment … life can turn on a dime, the unexpected happens, and we realise that life happens.  Like being caught in a riptide, we are swept off our feet and carried in a direction that we never anticipated.


These unexpected moments are life defining moments.  They are different for each of us, but when they come, they rock us …  to the core.  Our illusions shattered, we have to face them and deal with a new reality.  Whilst we cannot control the event, we can control how we choose to respond.

I have had a few of these moments in my life:  my father dying of cancer at 49 was a big one.  Being told I would never have children and having a hysterectomy at 39 another one.  My pituitary tumour yet another.  Whilst each of these events rocked me to the core, I have learnt a couple of things.  Here is what I know for sure.

1.  Whilst I am surprised/shocked, God is not.
He knew me when I was knit together in my mother's womb.  He knows all of my days before one of them came to be.  He has laid his hand on me and hems me in behind and before.  He is Alpha and Omega - the beginning and the end.  He has gone before me, therefore I am not in uncharted waters.  He knows the way through.  I just have to fix my eyes on him and put my feet on his feet and we will dance our way through the storm.

2.  Se La Vie.  It is what it is.
This is not being fatalistic.  I have just learnt that I need to be in the moment.  Asking why, will just take me in a non productive, often downwards, spiral.  Sometimes we try and make sense of tragedy.  Or even worse, other people try and make sense of it for us.  Sometimes, there is no sense to be made.  The only thing I know for sure is that God never meant for this world to be full of tragedy.  It is the result of a sick, fallen world.  It's not the way it was meant to be.  As I said to a dear friend recently, we don't get a free pass from tragedy and hardship because we are a Christian.  Likewise, it is not our lack of faith that causes it either.  It is what it is.  Now we deal.

3.  Lean on Others
We are not islands.  One of the beauties of life is love.  Who is in your life that cares about you?  Sometimes, we need to lean on others and allow them to help us walk along the path.  Just as we are not in control, we are not self-sufficient either.  We are made for community.  We are made to connect. Don't give in to the myth that you must be strong and independent.

In my case, in the early stages of my tumour, I was really sick, I didn't share with anyone (including my family) for months.  The main reason was that my family were dealing with the news of my 11 month old niece having been diagnosed with leukaemia and I didn't want to add worry.  I also rationalised that whilst my tumour was knocking the stuffing out of me, it wasn't going to kill me, whereas darling Ruby was in a fight for her life.  I figured sharing my struggles would be selfish.  Often we do this - compare our struggles to someone else's and think that we are better off, so keep a positive outlook.  I try to have a positive outlook on life, and part of my mind style and the way that I am wired is, "just get on with it!"  I was so busy trying to be positive and get on with it, that I struggled for months on my own.  When I eventually told my boss I was struggling at work, and told my Mum I was struggling to get through my days, it helped me acknowledge the very real challenges I was facing.  In opening up my journey to family and friends, I found grace and encouragement.  Share with those in your life who know you and care.  Whilst they are not walking your journey, they can hold you up when you are struggling and shine a light for you when you are in dark, scary places.

If you are currently in one of those unexpected times yourself, and you are feeling swept off your feet, take a moment and meditate on the words of David … Peace be with you.

Psalm 139

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand
    when I awake, I am still with you ...
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Hemmed In ...


Liquid Satin
Kaikoura, New Zealand
Copyright Sarah Carpenter


This week, I have been hemmed in.  I tried to leave Seoul for Chusok by booking tickets in March.  I tried to go to lovely Sorrento but couldn't get flights.  I tried to go and see a friend in Den Haag, but couldn't get flights.  I then tried to go and see a friend in London.  Yup ... no flights.  Crazy.  Some other things happened and made me realise that God wants my undivided attention this week.  I am facing some major decisions and need to hear from him.  More than that, he wants time alone with me.  So this week, I am kind of on a retreat ... at my house in Seoul.

I was recently writing to a friend replying that I was not travelling this break and I was a little MEH about that.  As I was writing, I felt a scripture from the bible drop in my mind, It's from Ps 139 and it says, "you hem me in behind and before, you have laid your hand upon me ..."
and I said to my friend, "I think God has hemmed me in this vacation ... he wants my undivided attention ..."

In the same Psalm, it says "if I rise on the wings of the dawn, and settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast" ...

This is an interesting scripture to drop into my mind during a time of possible transition as it is the same one that God impressed on me when I made the move to Seoul.   Along with that scripture, I had a clear image in my mind.  The image I had was that when I got to the airport and I was leaving ... it would be like God was standing at the departure gates waving me off saying "have a great time ..."  In the same image I could also see him walking through the departure gates with me,  saying, "let's go ... its going to be awesome!"  I also could see me arriving at the other end and see him there waiting for me as I came out of the arrival gates saying ... "come in ... so glad you are here ...  its all organized!"

I took a lot of comfort in that picture, knowing that I was not walking alone on the path unfolding for me.  But something even more amazing happened.  This is what actually happened with it in real life ...

I got to the airport with about 80 kilos of luggage ... my whole life packed up and resources for school. I had called the airline ahead and they told me it would be $18 NZD a kilo for excess ...I decided I had to just bite it and pay.

When I got to the airport it was 40 dollars a kilo and they told me my bill would be about $2,000
So I turned to my friend who was with me and said, "go tell the others to pray ... its way more than they said ..." and then I looked at the lady and said (respectfully),  "well, I guess I just have to pay.  I am moving my whole life to Korea .... and I need all these things."

She told me to wait, walked away for a bit and then came back and said, "you only have to pay $200!"
Seriously!  Unheard of.  No one at airports is that nice with excess luggage ...  :)  So there is God behind me ... waving me off ...

I get on the flight ... It was good ... and then ... the story gets better ...
I arrive at Incheon airport - it had been open about a month.

I step out of the door of the plane onto the jetway ... and notice there are some officials there ... one of them is holding a sign that says, "welcome Sarah Cartenter".

I looked at "Cartenter" and thought ... that must be me ... with a typo ...
So I looked at them and said, "Carpenter?"
(and we are in the jetway remember ... right by the door of the plane) ...
so they go, "Seoul Foreign School?" and I reply "yes ..."

There is a flurry of bowing and card exchanging and I am whisked off with the officials ... thinking "what the heck ...?!?"  It was all super fast ... they grabbed my passport ... whilst I freak out about that,  I was roared off to the diplomat channel ... someone grabbed my bags and I was through this huge international airport in about 10 minutes ... whipped out in the arrival lounge where the head of school was waiting for me looking completely bemused as I was diverted sideways to meet more officials in a flurry of bowing! 

I could see my new boss wondering what the heck was going on ...
as was I ...
God was smiling.  He went before me.

Here is the back story to that ...
My school in NZ had quite a few Korean kids ... and one of them, Danny, was not in my class, but was in my team.  And as a senior teacher, I had had to deal with him a few times on behavior issues!  When he heard I was moving to Korea he was really excited and kept asking how I was going ... when would I get there ... so I told him I was flying Korean Air and the day I was leaving.

His father was the one who met me at the door.  His uncle was a key facilitator in  the development of the new airport ...very important person.  So I got the VIP treatement into Korea ...

God hemmed me in behind and before ... he went before me ... waited and said, come on in ... its all ready for you!  Amazing!  

To me it is interesting that at this time of possible transition, the scripture he reminds me of this week, is the same one I had in my heart before I left for Korea ... I know my steps are ordered ... and I just know this week, I need to connect with him and make the plans and see what happens ...

Tonight as I end my reflection time I am grateful. I know without a shadow of a doubt that I am loved. Although I am single, I do not have to make the big decisions in my life that I am facing by myself. I have someone whose hand is on me and under me. Tonight I am reminded that he hems me in behind and before. He has laid his hand on me. If I rise on the wings of the dawn and settle on the far side of the sea, even there, his hand will guide me. His right hand will hold me fast.

God has proven that time and time to me.  I rest easy and my heart is full of gratitude.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Finish Strong

Thoughts shared with SFS staff May 22nd 2013

Finish Strong from Sarah Carpenter on Vimeo.