The City on Fire

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I’m taking a break from my vacation posts to fill everyone in on some serious happenings in my neck of the woods.  From what I understand from my compadres at home, Bosnia is not leading the six o’clock news each night.  Shocker.  You see, Bosnia is sort of the red headed stepchild of Europe.  So much so that for some time, even many Bosnians have seen themselves that way.  Call it a self fulfilling prophecy.  And as with all such prophecies, people eventually roll over and become that forever, or they rise up and demand more.  I think we are on the cusp of the Bosnian people making that crucial decision.

I am by no means a scholar of the Balkans, the former Yugoslavia or even the Siege.  What I am a scholar of is the people around me.  I love to hear their stories and know their hearts.  That is why Bosnia has become so personal to me.  And that is why when buildings started burning, I got very concerned.  Probably not in the way you might expect.  I have never lived in fear of my life or the lives of my children.  I have lived a charmed life and am very aware of it.  The majority of the world cannot say the same.  I also serve a powerful and awesome God.  I trust Him.  Full stop.  So, I know that as buildings start falling, I have an exit plan.  But not all the people I have come to like, love, respect, admire and cherish do.  So burning buildings in my backyard get my attention.

Depending on which articles you read, Bosnia has an unemployment rate of anywhere between 25% and 50%.  For the record, it’s much closer to 50%.  And that doesn’t include the “underemployed.”  You know, the pharmacist who cleans houses or the engineer who drives a taxi.  So, people are hungry- literally and figuratively.  This is also the single most overgoverned country in the world, that still uses a peace treaty from twenty years ago like it’s a permanent constitution.  And said government is also one of the most corrupt in Europe, if not the world.

Not too far from Sarajevo, is a town called Tuzla.  It is the industrial heart of Bosnia, at one time boasting many factories.  At the beginning of the month, another one of those factories was privatized and closed down, leaving hundreds of workers now unemployed.  They’d finally had enough, and government buildings were stormed and set on fire.  The unrest didn’t stay confined to Tuzla, but bled into Sarajevo, Mostar and Banja Luka.  In the blink of an eye, my city was on fire.  Traffic getting in and out of the city center was abysmal.  Schools closed early, and we were all told to stay home.  When the smoke cleared, this is what we saw.  (photo credits to my lovely husband who went down the next morning to scope out the damage)

Tram stop

Tram stop

Government building

Government building

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protests-8838-3

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Strangely, this was the last of the burning in Sarajevo so far.  I say strange because usually protests of this nature begin peacefully and grow into violence.  Thus far, this has been the opposite.  Don’t get me wrong, there have been protests almost everyday since these pictures were taken.  But they have been peaceful as this group is getting organized and determining what they are actually fighting for.  It is my hope that they do organize and demand more.  That they demand their government serve the people of Bosnia, regardless of what “ethnicity” the leaders want them to attach themselves to.  That they demand a safe country, with jobs, stability and a future.  And more than anything, I hope this momentum continues and the everyday Bosnians that I have come to like, love, respect, admire and cherish will create a new prophecy for themselves.  One that is prosperous and honorable.  One that they can be proud of, free of fear and corruption.  Peace, prosperity and love.

 

 

 

Tell Me I’m Normal

I woke up Sunday morning in a funk.  Like baby blues… only 14 months after giving birth.  I drug myself around all day, annoyed with everything.  Tired of it all.  Ready to throw in the towel, but for no real reason I could pinpoint.  There had been no big fight with the hubs.  My kids were their typical, *ahem* charming selves.  We had just come off of two weeks of fall break, which culminated a neighborhood Halloween party that would rival any small town’s Baptist church fall festival.  So, what was the deal?

Monday night, as we were watching the replay of Sunday’s Colts vs. Texans game, it hit me.  We are in full-on Fall mode.  It is almost Thanksgiving.  The holidays are upon us.  (I’m not sure what about that game struck a chord.  Maybe it’s because J.J. Watt‘s athletic prowess is as magical and unexplainable as Santa.)  Regardless, as subtle as a dump truck, the realization that it is my favorite time of the year smacked me in my gut.  It wasn’t so much that it is the end of Fall that sent me in a downward spiral of moodiness.  It was that it is the end of Fall, and I am living far from family, friends, church, American culture, Christmas, the list goes on and on.  It’s all going on right now, without me.  I am missing it all.

I know I am supposed to relish in this experience 100% of the time.  I am constantly harping on my boys to recognize that they are seeing and experiencing things that most people never even dream of.  But every once in awhile, with all the maturity of a two year old, I want to throw myself on the floor, pound my fists and cry.  And worst of all, not only am I trying to catch my breath in this self-made pit of despair, I feel guilty for feeling it.  For those of you that don’t struggle with guilt and worry on a daily basis, let me let you in on a secret… it sucks.  I have all the emotions of a “normal” person, and then I have extra emotions because I hyper-analyze why I feel that way, and then feel bad for it.  I know.  I need therapy.  But, for the record, it’s in my genes.  Ask anyone in my family.  They can vouch for my kind of crazy.

So, fast forward to today.  I had a sweet chat with one of my favorite people here.  We have this weird habit of walking each other to the door as we leave the other’s home, and then standing there for the next hour talking.  I’m not sure why we don’t just sit down and save ourselves the back ache.  But, I digress.  As we stood in my threshold talking, our conversation headed towards our neurotic shopping right now, as we fear the unknown that is the diplomatic pouch mail service.  Fearing our children will not get Christmas gifts in time for St. Nick (insert writhing and gnashing of teeth here), we spend hours on amazon, feeding our neurosis.  One thing led to another, and before you knew it, we were both teary eyed talking about how sad we were lately.  How we missed our families.  How this time of year makes us feel even further than the thousands of miles that separated us from all that is familiar.  And then my friend said something that resonated with me.  She said that she felt like we all just wanted someone else to say they felt this same way too.  That she wasn’t the only one finding it hard to see the joy in the days right now.  Standing there, with a tingling nose and wet eyes, I felt normal.  I didn’t feel so isolated and lonely.  

So, let me put it out there, to those of you who live a life like mine:  You are normal.  You are normal if you find yourself missing those stupid Christmas commercials that start on November 1st.  You are normal if you are angry because you can’t just pick up a phone and call your mom to say hi, because it’d cost $10/minute and it’s 3am her time.  You are normal if you obsess over the pictures of your friends at a particular 10 day salute to sausage that marks the beginning of the holiday season to you.  You are normal if you resent the fact that you are having to “browse” online stores trying to find something your kids will love for Christmas, knowing that you really have no clue, since they haven’t seen a commercial in months and don’t ever go to stores.  You are normal if your eyes fill up with tears every time you imagine what your BFF is doing right now, without you.  You are normal.  

And if I’m wrong, and you aren’t normal, then at least you know you aren’t alone.  And sometimes, that’s half the battle.  

Open Letter to the World

Now that I’m a seasoned blogger with eight whole posts under my belt (insert sarcasm font here), I thought it was time to enter into a writing contest.  Seems like a natural progression, right?  I really don’t care too much about the competitive side of this exercise, but instead was excited about the challenge of writing an Open Letter to the World.

Dear World-

Remember that time that I promised that I’d be one of The Ones?  You know, The Ones that would make a difference?  The Ones that leave a mark?  The Ones that make you, The World, better?  You know me: the best of intentions, but the shortest of attentions.

But my family has changed.  I have three kids now.  Each one beautiful and quirky in his and her own ways.  They have dreams that need to be fostered.  They have talents that need to be cultivated.  They have spirits that need direction.

Times have changed.  We no longer live in a world where being a good citizen, showing respect, and loving God is enough.  You World, need more intentionality than that.  Being a passively good person won’t cut it anymore.  You require more of me than you used to.

I have changed.  No longer is the young woman who could plead youth and ignorance.  She has been replaced by a woman with experience IN you, World, and, ashamedly, OF you.  I have seen poverty while living in India that made it hard to breathe.  A burden of mourning and sadness fill the streets of Sarajevo.  Two cities with two vastly different histories, people, cultures, and yet both have left scars on my heart that can no longer be hidden.  And those are just two of your cities, World.  Two.  My conclusion:  I know better, so I must be better.

I hear you calling me, World.  I can no longer sit idly by as you plead for me, and others just like me; those of us with first world problems will no longer use our voices for complaints, but rather action.  Am I likely to be an ambassador for human rights that is interviewed by the likes of Anderson Cooper?  Probably not.  Will a building be named after me for bringing awareness to a cause that changed the world?  I doubt it.  So what can I do, World?

On the surface, I don’t have much to offer.  I’m not rich.  My skills and talents might bring me joy, but aren’t worth a lot on paper.  My greatest achievements are peacefully sleeping upstairs as I write this letter to you.  But they are just babies.  New to you.  They are just blank slates, without prejudice, bias, or experiences.  They are blank slates.  Blank.  Slates.

I offer to you my children.  I resolve to raise children who are not so busy living IN you that they forget that they are part OF you.  I won’t toughen them up so they can withstand the storms of life.  I will teach them, no show them, that they can have spirits that calm storms.  I will make it my life’s mission to show them that they ARE ambassadors of goodwill, not only worthy of being interviewed by Anderson Cooper, but worthy of being called sons and daughters of a loving, living God.  I will give them life altering experiences and force them out of their comfort zones.  Show them simultaneously the utter despair of abject poverty and the brilliance of selfless love.  I will allow them to struggle so they value effort.  I will love them unconditionally, so they will always know the feeling and can mirror it to others.  I won’t allow them the excuse of not knowing better.

They are yours.  But know this, World.  I am not me without them.  So if you want them, you’ve got me too.  And I’m not me, without my God.  That’s right, you get Him too.  One big, happy family.  See you at the reunion

East Foundation Reception Desk-2003

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East Foundation Reception Desk-1482

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East Foundation Reception Desk-1993

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