7 cats and a ticket.

People often walk up to me and ask questions like “SOO where ya going next?” or “any trips planned?” or, now that i’ve been in Virginia quite a while–“so Teresa…you settling down in Virginia now?” {wink wink}

Usually i want to crunch myself into a little beetle underneath the kitchen sink, because living so…… openly, makes me realize what a shy person i really am. Or maybe its simply the fact that i’m human and a lot of us have trained ourselves not to be vulnerable. Whatever the case, I’m committed to living an honest life by the grace of God….. so may everyone with me continue to bear with all the disjointed little parts of my life.

My life honestly isn’t all about traveling or talking with Russians at airports or climbing foreign mountains– even though it has included some of that.

Basically, somewhere between my 14th birthday and my 20th birthday, God asked me if was willing to trust Him to every extent. With my finances. With my dreams. With my husband {or the lack of one=) }. With my vehicles. With my health. With my safety. With people in authority over me, who have the power to greatly affect the course of my future. just everything really.

Sometimes He gives me opportunities to learn these lessons in other cultures, speaking other languages. But mostly the lessons are learned in “normal” life, the unromantic moments we all have that never make their way into Instagram or The New York Times.

So far the past week had plenty of those. When i told God i’d be willing to follow Him into the depth of any slum, i didn’t imagine that He’d ask me to vacuum the fur balls from 7 cats and 2 dogs every week. When i imagined myself loving people at risk to my own health, i didn’t plan to spend hours mopping a Virginian hillbilly house filled with smoke and shooing Charlie-the-cat out of the tuna casserole. When i started praying for Arabs i didn’t imagine driving hours every week just to do flashcards.

We’ve all had moments when we wonder whether complete sacrifice is worth it. Whether giving up alllll our rights will truly make a difference in the world. I’d be thrilled if my life were to bless someone else’s life. But what really matters is whether or not i am in God’s perfect will for me. Am i flying about attempting to do great works for my own feeling of self-worth, or am i giving my every minute to whatever He asks from me. Sometimes He asks me to do cleaning jobs for the sake of the little lady who can’t get out of bed. Sometimes His will is to stay home and study with my sisters.

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And occasionally He brings things that make absolutely no sense in the present. This morning i had planned to do diagnostic tests on Andrew and Lana to determine their proper grades for this school year. On my way there i swung in at Mr Taylor’s mechanic shop to switch out my car for the one i’m borrowing while he does my oil change and inspection. I pulled onto the 29 in my carefree, lets-get-there-already way and as i tried to figure out where all the controls were in the loaned car, forgot to carefully watch the mirrors until i suddenly noticed the road i wanted was just ahead. Somehow in the process of turning left, my car sideswiped a shiny red truck, whom i hadn’t noticed until it was too late to think logically. The big burly-but-civil man wanted to call the police and get everything written out as an accident, even though there were only minimal scratches on the side of his bumper. We parked. He called. and i apologized profusely.

They forgave me but the policeman wrote my very first ticket and when he brought my license, asked if i know some Dalen Coblentz who apparently is a buddy of his cuz they took training together. I had thoughts like..”maybe you could forget about giving me a ticket because..your friend is probably my relative..etc etc etc.” But i tried to be gracious and saved my tears for later.

Moral of that story is that i don’t know all the reasons for everything that happens to me. Obviously i do dumb things sometimes that have hard consequences but it’s okay because none of us are infallible and its needful that we remember.

But the things to be grateful for are many. Today a student told me that i mean a lot to her, and that was basically a blast of cozy sunshine. I’m also thankful that i didn’t break the leg of the burly man in the shiny red truck.. or even his nose or anything like that. I’m thankful that God knew yesterday that He was going to use a ticket to humble me today. I’m thankful that, despite my human-ness, my Creator wants to live inside of me.

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Ps. Andrew and Lana did well on the diagnostic tests and i hope i’ll get to watch them graduate. Pray that trucks would stay out of my path and that I could get night jobs to pay off my next trip. 😀

caffeinated in Liberia…

2:36 in da morning has me awake, listening to the rain which has been pouring steadily for hours now. It may be the violently itchy ant + mosquito bites that woke me, or simply the fact that I drank three quarters of a mug of black tea just before bed.

Visiting Liberia has been an enriching experience so far, especially the part where ants donate their energies to my feet nearly every time I step into the courtyard. For the innocent among us: ant bites hurt intensely enough to give you shivers and turn any staid, steady person into a dancing speciman.

But, more seriously— walking the back alleyways of Monrovia, speaking to our neighbors in the courtyard, and hearing the stories of a country which has suffered tremendous atrocities, has impacted me tremendously.  I didn’t mean to become so attached to the people here but I find I can’t help it.

Last week we trudged down narrow streets, past huge, black, fish roasting vats, and ended up at the sea. The beach was littered with toilet paper and other garbage, but the kids playing on the abandoned canoes brought my attention from the stench to their individual little lives.

But, of course, as is always the case with short term trips…i can ask questions and genuinely love them, but in the end i had to turn and walk away– just another statistical white skin who peeks in only to leave again. 20170603_142125

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It hurts every time.

 

oh Aaliyah.

I looked into your eyes and loved you. I loved you even though for so many weeks you mostly just smiled and answered- briefly- my random questions about your life. I prayed that God would open your heart to His love, and I noticed how you were beginning to thaw. You promised to talk sometime, and we prayed that Jesus would set you free and heal your torn heart.

Then your birthday weekend. You wanted to go watch Boss Baby together and we did, and enjoyed it, not because Boss Baby was great, but because I got to ride the whole way to Lynchburg with you, and…you talked.

about yourself. Your past. Your feelings. The things that tumble and stir deep in your heart.

We ate greasy popcorn together together in the theater and blinked as we emerged into the bright sunlight once more.

I dropped in after school that next week with your birthday chocolate, never expecting that you’d be gone several days later. Never expecting that you’d disappear into the muddled confines of the overtaxed foster system. Not dreaming that i probably wouldn’t see you again.

Today i’m thinking about you Aaliyah. I’m wondering what the new mother is like, and how the boys at the new school treat you. I wonder if anyone will look at you and see a girl who has been hurt so deeply that she doesn’t know how to be open to love anymore. I wonder if anyone will hug you with only pure motives. I wonder if you’ll ever have a forever home.  I wonder if there are women in your new town who will see you and extend the love of God to you. I wonder if those women realize they may only have one chance. Maybe one day . One month. Maybe even a year. I pray they would intentionally use those moments. I pray that you would remember the love, the truth, and the purity you saw once upon a time, and you would want Jesus . With all your heart.

I pray that when we stand before the throne of our God, you would be there too, with unhindered Joy in your eyes and waving a palm branch high above your head – worshiping the One who defeated hell and death and sin- for you. 1482172994890_4863101569_f5e88638

May none of us ever ever be guilty of wasting that one chance we’re given. We think we have tomorrow..or next month. But we don’t know. Maybe we only have… NOW. 

 I would trade all the visas in the world for the sake of living every moment in the powerful Love of my God. 

Motors for the frizzy-heads.

They all think that it’s pretty obvious that i’m Soveriegnly ordained to be in Virginia at the moment, and i have to laugh and tell them they’re right. painfully so.

There are so many moments here that i am thankful for.

Watching Renita hold an Iraqi baby and eating the graham crackers we are served at Hend’s house, washed down our throats with syrupy chai. 20170420_100547

Finding that the road has merged with the creek, and nervously plowing through without stalling the car, even though a short little man is watching  the entire thing with  big round eyes and a rather grimly set jaw.
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Riding all the way to Lynchburg with Aaliyah and eating popcorn with Eliana before they get shipped off to the next foster home.

20170429_144040…..There are so many of these moments. and i love them. or the people in them.

Before my family and i stuffed the trailer full of years’ worth of belongings, I’d yanked weeds out of the Michigan garden, sat on the patio under the moon, and walked the shores of lake Michigan, thinking hard about the implications of moving here with them.

I asked God to give me a car to use if I’m supposed to actually live here for any amount of time. Around the same time, Dad told me that i’m welcome to use his car for awhile.

okay, i thought, not exactly what i was envisioning, but this works. for now……. 

More recently, as i’m getting pulled deeper and deeper into life here, I’ve been driving Dad’s groaning little Subaru all over the hilly countryside, and praying that it wouldn’t give out while i’m driving it because i didn’t want to pour my savings account into the aged little motor.

About two weeks ago i was on the way home from an evening with my people in Charlottesville and feeling desperate about my transportation issue. I knew i couldn’t keep tying up Dad’s vehicle every day, and i knew i couldn’t really afford to buy a decent one, and i really would rather speak other languages than English, and ride city buses rather than drive,  and besides….AM i even supposed to be here in this sterile country where we throw away good things and shiver over baby cockroaches ????? So in one last desperate prayer, i told God that i’m going to need my own car, or then I’ll basically know i’m supposed to leave Virginia.

i got to Bible Study late that evening, and sat in a nearly empty row, totally exhausted; and continued to think thoughts that may or may not have fit into the ”mustard seed quality” category. i don’t remember much from what they were studying. 

The very next day Freeman casually sat behind his desk and told me that a friend of his had decided to donate a car. to me.  

The donor-man had never met me..and freeman did not know about my demanding prayer.

I didn’t even journal about it, because the guy still hadn’t dropped off the car and I wasn’t quite sure if i believed it.

Several days later our car load of girls swung in at the Ice Cream Parlour, and.. behold the 20 year old car with a skinny pink streak running down its entire length.

I just stood there, laughing incredulously but wanting desperately to cry. 20170501_162832

And so  i drive a car that is nearly as old as i am. As i fumble with the seat belt and sometimes go too slow because, i guess cruise was none existent 20 years ago[? ], i shiver sometimes and smile and just….. thank my God.

Who knows. and cares. in personal ways. like whether i need a car or whether i should be teaching among the hills of Virginia.

…….. If you need me I’ll be eating pastries with my Syrians or giving Lana journaling prompts.

Liberian cloth and Somersaulting Honeypots

The piece of yellow cloth caught my eye and my breath stuck in my throat. Africa. It’s got to be from Africa. 

The evening before, as I had packed for a month away from Virginia, I’d told God very plaintively that I want to sit with an immigrant on the bus. { like, okay God, if You’re not gonna let me leave the country, at least give me this one request… So you see, it was mostly selfish.}

Selfish request was all but forgotten the next morning. Melissa and I hugged goodbye beside the bus and I clambered aboard, lugging my characteristically heavy backpack down the isle. I scanned the seats for friendly faces and for a few brief seconds debated between the big hillbilly guy and the African-American businessman. The latter won, maybe because he was closer; but I settled in beside him and tried to be all polite and as undramatic as possible. He at least seemed to sleep for nearly two hours, and by the time he ‘woke up’, I had noticed his African-ish kanga fabric.

When I asked where he comes from ……”Liberia.”  {hiccup. an immigrant. } 

His name is Moriu. A serious man not that much older than myself who has huge dreams and several wives and three children and after talking for several hours he told me that he believes we were supposed to sit together, and that ” beginning January 6th, my life will be different.” He is tired of sin and wants Purity.

 Dare to talk to God before you climb aboard Greyhound buses. May be that He has someone specific He’d like you to sit with..?! 

Hours and hours later I was watching a janitor push his mop across the floor of the Nashville station, when a tall man in a green beanie and a scruffy blonde beard plopped into a seat close by. We had exchanged pleasantries earlier but now we actually began a conversation and it quickly veered deeper than family life and economics.

3 hours later we had boarded the bus together and also accumulated another kid who had words he wanted to contribute. The people around us were stoical and i couldn’t tell what they thought as we talked on about abortion and the reality of God. We finally sagged in our seats and slept, then smiled the next morning and parted ways. Ryan headed on towards Oregon to pick up a truck and haul it to who-knows-where. Pray for Ryan. That he would find the reality of God’s presence here, in this life.

And then I spent three + weeks slicing meat and bagging Runts and baking gooey chocolate chip cookies. A woman named Mildred crept in to buy Rye bread, and didn’t leave until she had given me an illustrated page depicting the benefit of antioxidants. Another withered little lady talked about losing so much weight that she gets up during the night to eat chips. Mr Gail carried hog-scent into the store nearly every time he came  but his loneliness was bottomless enough to drown out my aversion to the odor. We drank coffee together and he was gracious enough to eat several handfuls of my too- crisply-baked cookies. On my last official day there, I tore a box open and little honey jars went rolling under the shelving and into various isles. A silvery grandma came around the corner carrying a little pot of honey– “this was in the other isle…”

{ smiles up at her with my most Pooh-like grin.} 

 

/// I returned to Virginia and life continued on here. Amidst an explosion of refugees wanting English classes, Dad needing help with getting the business up and going, and local teaching opportunities, we have been far from bored.

I do think it’s ironic though, that, when I told the before-mentioned Liberian that I’d love to visit his country, I wasn’t expecting it to happen.

Turns out i may be walking those paths in several weeks.

I like the mysterious ways of my Abba.

 

may their feet not get blistered.

“Once upon a day a man asked his leader about the Judgement day. The leader gathered a group of people and gave each of them a certain amount of money. The first man received $100, and every person in turn received a little less. Finally he gave a dollar to the man who had asked the original question.
They were told to spend said money however they pleased, but to keep a record of what was bought.

The next day the whole group reaasembled at the local bread ovens.

Mr Leader-man had each man, beginning with the one who’d been given $100, stand on top of the oven and recite the things he had acquired with his money.
The first man began to recite until finally the heat became unbearable and he jumped off of the oven with blistered feet.
On down the line they went. The men who’d been given only 20 and 30 dollars had a much easier time as they shared about the things they did with their money; still, their feet were painfully burned.
Finally the man who’d only had $1 to spend climbed onto the top of the oven.
He had $1 to account for and then he jumped, blisterless, away from the heat.
“this, is what Judgement day will be like,” said the Leader to his followers.”

My friend AJ recited this story tonight, just before he said goodbye. We had been talking about how God desires a relationship with us, and now he wanted to impress on me one last thought.

As he finished his story, I suddenly felt a tremendous amount of extreme gratitude bubbling up in the deepest parts of my heart.

I glimpsed a picture of Jesus, standing in my place in front of the throne of God.

When I stand before the throne of God, and the Creator of 7+ billion humans turns to ask how I, Teresa Coblentz, spent my life, I will not get blistered feet because all I will do is point to Jesus.
I will not have to stand on an oven to answer for each one of my millions of sins.
I will not have to prove that I did enough good deeds to cover up my selfish nature.

When I stand before the throne of God, and the Creator of life and love and beauty turns to look at my feeble life, He will see Jesus. Not me.

The good news of Jesus is that simple.

 

After i explained to him why i will not have to try to justify myself on Judgement day, he nodded, smiled, and, with a few “Insha’Allahs” stepped into the night with his beautiful wife and two little daughters.

Please pray for AJ and his family tonight. Pray that they would find Jesus to be their Life. DSCN0810

Slashed open in return for my healing.

The year Two-thousand-sixteen is history. laid aside like a well read piece of literature. I’ve been reflecting on those 366 days [ last year was a leap year right???] and struggling with letting go.

Maybe because for perhaps the first time in my life i have no well-marked agenda for this next year. Dreams, yes. Hopes, of course. Ideas, most definitely so. but really no high-sounding vision of things i will accomplish this year.

Just to “know God. and make Him known.”

Technically this was supposed to be one of those really amazing, end of year, recap kind of blog posts in which i would recount numerous cool stories and introduce you to people i was privileged to meet and books i happily skimmed through and mountains i climbed.

But what is really burning deep in my heart is what’s happening right this very minute. Tonight.

Tonight we can scroll through our facebook feeds and shed a few tears over the Refugees in Greece who are freezing.
We go to bed and sleep soundly because we are so far removed from the situation in Italy and Syria and we feel helpless. well, we console ourselves, i really WOULD do something if they were like, my next door neighbors. 

And it’s true, we probably would.

Tonight there are people in our neighborhoods, people in our youth groups, people in our own families even, who are dying on the inside and no one notices.
Or, if we do notice that something is wrong, we politely keep our mouths shut. I sure would hate to be nosy you know….  and besides, i’m not a counselor.  dscn0998

Tonight is the time for our generation..[ good morning millenials ] to look into the eyes of bruised souls. To notice the scars and and the anorexia. The desperation in the eyes we glance into as we hurry on our busy little ways. The tough exteriors, pretending to exude confidence, but underneath are crushed souls aching for Redemption.

Tonight is the time to forget the way we held onto comfort in the past, and to reach forward to the things God has given us to do. and to do so with all our energies and the boldness of lions.

Our generation and specifically the Christian world i grew up in has gained expertise at doing what it takes to ‘get by’. Of dressing correctly and not doing anything to cause too many ripples. But we all know that deep down we are as sinful as everyone else.
We have known anorexia and homicidal thoughts. We cave in to fear of all kinds and self harming. We struggle with homosexual urges and alcoholic addictions. We even wonder sometimes, if God is actually real. dscn9599

Obviously this is an intensely gigantic subject.

I’d just like to beg you, look to Jesus Christ.

I know personally the desperation. the struggle. the empty ache in the pit of your stomach. the hurt and the delusionment.

I also know the freedom that the power of Jesus brings. He.is.real. If you are struggling with these issues, Come to Jesus.

Tonight, children of God, there is someone who needs to see the power of God in your life. Ask Him to break your heart with the things that are breaking His heart. He will do so. It will be painful. I beg you. Tonight there are people with scarred arms and also scarred hearts who need us to be awake and standing in the gap. Its in these moments that all our knowledge of the Bible is really worthless unless the Holy Spirit is living deep inside of you. us. me.

These [ insert the sins our generation is dealing with ] will not come out but by prayer and fasting. cropped-dscn8162.jpg

Tonight are you willing to stand in the gap for whoever God places on your heart?
Maybe it is a refugee in Italy.
But maybe it is someone much closer. Maybe  your child. Your brother. The girl who seemed distant at youth group tonight.

{Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby you have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will you die……for I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, says the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live.  } Eze. 18 

and finally, remember that Jesus was pierced, His skin ripped open, for you. and He loved you right to His very last breath. Remember that He’s ALIVE again and that He still loves you just as fervently.