Rest in Me

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‘Come to me if you’re tired, weary, burned out and I will give you rest. You’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.’ Matthew 11 28-29 Message Translation.

Christians often talk about the Lord telling them to pray and rest in Him. What does this mean? Does it mean we must take to our beds and sofas and kick back for the rest of our lives, giving up jobs and lives and staying at home?

As appealing as this may sound, on the contrary, if we are praying in all circumstances, we have the confident hope that the Lord is actually telling us, ‘Pray and I will do the rest.’

This sounds so simple. He is certainly stronger than we are, has our best interests at heart, can see the future before it happens and has designed each of us for a specific purpose (this is why comparison is futile and steals our happiness.) The Lord’s grace is enough for us; His power is made perfect in our weakness.

We are not to try to understand, underestimate or know how He does things. The grace of the Lord is stronger than all our faults and failures. His love for each of us is deeper and greater than our hearts could ever fathom. We must humble ourselves, therefore, before the Almighty God, for truly He alone is the One who gives and takes away.

Do not be afraid to go boldly forth into the new day. Just as none of us would go into the laundry basket and take out yesterday’s clothes to wear, so it is with the mercies of Christ which begin fresh each day. We must not take the garbage of yesterday into the freshness of today. Why be afraid when we are given a spirit of love, courage and a strong mind?

As St. Paul writes in 2 Timothy, when the going gets tough, take it on the chin, just as Jesus did, running the race of faith, love and peace. Let’s not be argumentative but be gentle, listeners, keeping cool and keeping on, keeping on.

Asking the Lord to help us and sort out our stresses and messes starts a positive cycle of strength and reassurance, relief from pressure and real progress. This is most certainly difficult to start with but will become easier as we rest in Him, spending more time in prayer and thankfulness for all He has done and is doing for us. As our “Attitude of Gratitude” develops, we will see how our days become less stressful and more productive. The rest will come and our bodies will become physically and mentally recharged and stronger.

“You pray, I’ll do the rest,’ says the Lord. The rest of our hearts, souls, minds and lives is found as we pray, trust, believe and obey that He is with us always. The rest will come in the Lord’s time but, in the meantime, He will equip us through the Holy Spirit to cope with life and its grenades. We can confidently go in to today to work and enjoy the freedom He has given us through the price paid through His death and resurrection.

Lord, in your mercy, help us pray and let you do the rest. Help us to remember that you are a God who loves us and has our best interests at heart. Help us Lord, graciously help us go into today with happiness and gratitude for all you have done and are doing for us and through us for the good of each other. Help us develop attitudes of sincere gratitude. Enable us, Lord, to set aside stillness in each day to listen to you. In this stillness may your Holy Spirit help us remember times when you have answered our prayers and enabled us to to more than we could physically or mentally have achieved in our own strength. May we openly talk with others about these times to encourage, refresh and build one another up. Bless us, good Lord. Thank you Lord for we can’t do this without you.  Amen.

Pray and Shway – Updated 5 February 2014

Stan+Laurel

Life living in the desert can ever be described as a)colourless b)monotonous c) straight forward.

From the mutant hour daily get ups at 4.45am before a 90 minute journey in the dark up to the Saudi Border, the day begins and ends in a fog peppered with exhaustion and bewilderment.  I’d be lying if I said that there weren’t recent moments of emotional paralysis where the frustration has seemed engulfing with private tears and public rants more prevalent than before.

Don’t get me wrong: this country is most definitely my home and I love it here. I am grateful each day for the patience and love of my fellow Arabic colleagues who are so encouraging and big hearted in my attempts to chat with them using my few dodgy Arabic phrases. However, my heart truly longs for the day when I can sit and listen properly to their conversations and hear what is really going on in their lives.

I often feel like I resemble Stan Laurel in my many facial expressions during the situations I find myself in where 1 out of every thousand or so words is comprehensible and my limited phrases and words can only get me so far. My eyes frequently twist and turn and my eyebrows definitely move like Jagger. Gormless is most probably the less glamorous word I could use here, but I shall move on as we all know that the power of life and death lies in our tongues and the words we speak, ahem. (See previous postings.) http://biblehub.com/proverbs/18-21.htm

I have attached some of the Stan Laurel moments from the past year below. They are in no way intended to mock anyone or show any disrespect in any way to anyone living or working with me who is from the UAE or the GCC. They are written to share the wonderment of this habitation of the daily bizarre during this particular jigsaw piece of our lives.

It is my sincere wish that these musings a) encourage some who are in similar situations to keep going and to b) make others in far (and not so far) away lands with cream sofas and Starbucks and Malls and shiny pretty things on their doorsteps to think outside their boxes and stop taking things like cream sofas and Starbucks and Malls and shiny pretty things for granted.

But most of all, I want just people to read these postings and smile.

Lord, help us to Pray and Shway.  We are always telling the children to ‘shway shway,’ in order to calm and slow them down. Help us, Lord, to apply this to our own lives and the every day learning experiences and frustrations we find ourselves in. Help us slow down, throw up our prayers and keep going knowing that you are in control and everything will be ok. In your name we pray. Amen.

 

Wednesday 5th February, 2014

So, today in a classroom in a far away land filled with sand, I dropped a piece of paper on the floor. The response from little Wildcat ‘friend’ (who looks like a mini Arab Idol contestant with his HUGE bouffant mullet hair, back combed and hairsprayed, and who often is caught combing his mane whilst sitting in class) was this:

‘Ohhhh sheeetttt!’, both palms up raised heavenward, both shoulders squeezed way up to his ears, face gasping then scrunched up in very, very dramatic way.

So, English obviously spoken at home then. Is my job here done?

(He is 5 but can write the word ‘Butterfly’ without help, so can be forgiven, right? He was also wearing his brown leather jacket zipped up to the neck and when he walks, he has that ‘home boy’ swagger thang going on. Was also caught yesterday jumping from one table to another. Maybe not forgiven, just yet?)

January 27, 2013

Somewhere, somehow, today in another (NB this is not the first) Arabic Lost in Translation Moment, my classroom was interrupted by a gasping Arabic lady asking (too mild a verb, sorry),”Meeez Choood!! Meeeezzzz Chooooodd!! Your daughter eeezz DYYYIIINNNNGGGG????!!! Where weeeeellll you go??!”

Erm, no. Sorry. No daughter and I would like to stay here, please? As I stood there with facial expressions resembling Stan Laurel (he was the skinny, dopey one, right?), about 4 other Arabic ladies, having heard the shrieking from the first lady and obviously concerned about what was going on in the doorway of my tiny classroom, had arrived.

I explained in very broken Arabic that I didn’t have a daughter and so everything was ok, no one was dying and that it was a good day, Mashallah.

However, they began to look even more horrified and I became even more afraid that the first lady was about to collapse.

‘Noooo daughtarrrr??!!’ they all cried in unison, going up way too high at the end of each of their words, eyes popping out of their shaking heads accompanied by much tutting and hands being raised heavenward.

‘No daughter,’ I replied meekly, shaking my head and almost closing my eyes in shame.

‘HAZZZZZBBBAAAANNNNTTT?’ They gasped-their voices becoming louder and much more shrill. Gasping for breath continued.

‘No. No husband,’ I whispered.

Shrieks (of horror?) from all the women now. Much more tutting and grabbing my cheeks and kissing my face, stroking my hair and shouting at each other. Were they blaming my short hair for my marital status? I don’t know. Were they were happy for me? Saddened? Excited about fixing me up with their brothers, cousins, uncles, sheikh friends? I. Don’t. Know. I feel like Stan Laurel. Am glad that the little wild kittens managed to get on with their work in the midst of such theatrics and produced some great pictures and words about aeroplanes (they’ve never seen a train before).

March 27, 2013

Quote from Land of Sand today: Meez Chood, pliz I take pikchar? Your face like kitty kettt…

May 20, 2013

Small child, pointing to her head/hairstyle: Meeez Choood! Looook! Cake!

Me: No, bun.

October 22, 2013

Small lispy, high-pitched Wildcat today, aptly named Essa (translated into English: Jesus), holding door open for me (I am, therefore, already suspicious): Tha-lam-al-ay-koom ha-bee-thee. (Roughly translated: How you doin’ sweetheart, eh?)

Then winks.

I look down at him and say: Imti hamza, Essa? (Aren’t you only five years old, Essa? Should you really be saying that to your teacher?)

Essa: La. Arba. (No. I’m 4). Winks and runs off.

Grrrr.

October 24, 2013

Week starts with car accident which narrowly misses us. Week ends with the little nocturnal Wildcats playing hide and seek in the pitch black outside the apartment despite pot-holes, glass and traffic and I am drinking shiraz from a mug because nowhere out here sells wine glasses, of course. Stay classy, world. No surrender.

November 18, 2013

Today in the Land of Sand everything was going ‘well’ until, whilst attempting to share the genius of drawing different shapes with a collective of non English speaking Wildcat-Bedouin 5 year olds, I managed to slide off the wee green chair I was sitting in. No one noticed until after about a long minute (probably less, who knows in this time-free, shawaya shawaya zone), when I heard a little voice announce to the class, ‘Whirrrr MeEeEeEEEEEzzzzz Choooodddd”. “Here. On the floor, habiti’, I said, raising my hand and lowering my head, wondering how in my 30,000 years of teaching across continents and varying academic establishments it had taken me this long to slide to the floor without alcohol. The Wildcats, for the first time this year, showed no expression. They simply didn’t react. They just looked at me like I was so dumb. So very, very stupid. Yet, each day, I see one of them, at least, attempt a handstand on the carpet before we sing songs or try to pull someone’s nose off their face. Or kick them in the head. Or jump off a table. So, really, Wildcats, game on if you want to get competitive. — eating Dahl which was originally intended to be a lentil soup but I got it wrong.

November 19, 2013

When travelling long distances each day to work, interesting conversations often pop up both as a way to stay awake and as a possible manifestation of the slight insanity which both accompanies and is a pre-requisite to desert living. Today, the topic of conversation included how many more Arab men seem to be taking Asian women as their 4th wives and how some of us had seen more mixed race Arab/Asia children in malls etc.

So far, so shaway. I arrive back into the village I call home and then head off to get my spuds and avocado (which I had been thinking about cooking since about 7am this morning – another survival trick) from the local Lulu’s when who should I see but an Arab man with super curly long hair, a flat cap, khandora, Ray Ban shades and a larger Asian wife. They proceeded to put my potato and avocado into their trolley. ‘Mafi mushukula’, I said, and they gave it back to me.

I then toddle on home and open up the kitchen window and proceed to go out of the flat to the rubbish shoot when I hear a bang. When I get back to the flat, the door has slammed locked shut behind me. I am horrified. I am wearing my pyjama bottoms and my work top. Thankfully, my bra had not been taken off for the night. So, after three trips up and down the stairs to check if Mr Advil (yes, really, as in painkiller brand) or Mr Jamal (yes, really as in Camel) our friendly maintenance men are around, I head off and walk across the lovely green garden outside the 4 apartment blocks, past lots of looks from the dear Muslim ladies and walk towards Mr Jamal, our maintenance man who, thankfully, I see across the car park. “Hazir kabir mushkula, Mr Jamal,” I exclaim.

We head back to the apartment and he knocks on the door of the Jordanian family who live next door and walks into their flat while my neighbour takes this opportunity to comes out into the corridor and starts to ask me about my day as I sit on the floor in my pyjama bottoms and work top, thankful that I am still wearing my bra.

Suddenly my door opens from the inside and Mr Jamal looks down and smiles at me. ‘Helllo Mz Chood techerrrr!” He says with a grin.

I am astounded and ask him how he managed to get into my flat but he doesn’t reply and looks at the ground and shakes his head. He is obviously embarrassed but my neighbour proceeds to explain that Mr Jamal has gone into his flat, stepped out on to the window ledge and WALKED ACROSS THE THIN WINDOW LEDGE to my open kitchen window (the cause of all the nonsense and suction/air vent rubbish in the first place) and let himself into my apartment.

Mr Jamal, at this point has walked off, obviously embarrassed and so I run after him to give him a 5 pack of noodles (all I could find in the flurry of excitement and bewilderment which ensued). I later see him standing across the car park looking towards our apartment block, I hope congratulating himself.

Spiderman lives on, people. He is truly alive and well here in this part of the Land of Sand. And yes, he was wearing a red t shirt.

January 20

Stan Laurel moment #(oh, a thousand and something, at least…)

“Mz Chood! Plizz. You gif me five minute I go uzzarr kless problem zay mik baby in za kless.”

Now, had I been in those hazy, halcyon days of teaching in Slough or glorious inner city London, innit, I might have been more concerned. This, however, is pretty standard Land of Sand daily chat.

When life in the desert is dry, get together, make some food, pray, laugh, cry and encourage one another.

Tuna Nicoise Salad is a favourite, easy dish to prepare in less than half an hour. It’s got so many yummy ingredients to keep you healthy and sane as you go about your daily life in the desert. The most complicated part is making the dressing into which I sometimes put a dollop of honey. I hope you enjoy! Image

I’m not good at remembering exact quantities when I cook and I know that I most probably have inherited this from my late Grandmother, Lally Jean, who could rustle up the best feed out of next to no ingredients. Please feel free to add whichever vegetables you like to this salad.  I’m not a fan of anything to do with lettuce so never add it to a salad, hence my love of the wonderment that is the Tuna Nicoise Salad.

This evening, I bought about 6 small potatoes, washed, peeled and cut them up into bite size chunks (they’ll cook quicker this way and you get to eat this delicious salad sooner!) and put them into boiling salted water. I set the timer to boil them for ten minutes during which time I then topped and tailed and cut in half the handful of long, French beans I had purchased earlier from my culinary advisor, Mr Abu the fruit & veg vendor in the Local Fresh Market here in the desert lands. (I think he likes to see me each day; he greets me with a big smile and says,’What you cook tonight? You want some zis? And put wis sis, ok ah?’ Last week, it was Banana Plant in a curry. Delish!)

I dropped the chopped up beans into the boiling water along with the potatoes. I’m not a fan of washing up as it wrecks my manicure, lol, so the bigger the pot, the better. While everything is bubbling away and getting to know each other better in that big, bad pot, I started to chop up two super huge, wonderfully pesticide free tomatoes and sprinkled salt over them. I put them into a large salad bowl and opened a tin of tuna and placed it into the bowl along with the tomatoes.

Next come the small tub of fresh Spanish Olives. Add these to your salad bowl.

Bubble, bubble, bubble go the disco dancing French Beans and the Saudi Spuds.

The ten minute timer should now be buzzing, at which point, add three eggs to that multinational bubbling, boiling brood and boil for a further three minutes.

Now start to mix one big tablespoon of olive oil, two big tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and a crushed clove of garlic into a mug. You can add your tablespoon of honey now if you like and a squirt of lemon.

Everything in the pot, the French Beans, the Saudi Spuds and the Emirati Eggs should now be almost done and dusted. Carefully drain them into a large colander and pick out the eggs with a large cooking/serving spoon and run them under a cold tap for a minute or so.  Set the eggs into a bowl of cold water and put the spuds and green beans into your salad bowl. Pour the dressing over the top of the dish. Now mix everything together. Carefully peel the eggs and slice them with a sharp knife and place them gently on the top of the dish, giving everything one or two more turns with the big serving spoon.

Voila! Enjoy!

If you’re cooking for one person, there should be enough for lunch and dinner tomorrow. Bring it to work to share with a colleague or drop it in with a neighbour.

Pudding was White Toblerone.

Drinks: Perrier with a slice of lemon.

Music:  Stephane Grapelli on Youtube.

Prayer: Lord, there are so many things to be grateful for today. With my two hands, I offer up these prayers. On my right hand, I thank you for these 5 things. I give you my 5 cares and worries on my left hand and I throw them away. With both hands, I open myself up to you. Please care for us, Lord, through these times in the desert lands. Strengthen and guide us with peace and kindness towards out brothers and sisters. In your name we pray, Amen.