Holy wow. So many memories came rushing back to me as I was sitting on my flight from Houston to Istanbul.
They showed the same commercial promoting Turkish Air showing all these memorable places in Turkey, The Grand Bazaar, Taxsim, the Bosphorus...
(Warning! If you watch this video, you will be flooded with desire to take a trip to Istanbul: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyM141zwRzU)
The flight attendants walked around passing out Turkish Delight (I was never actually a big fan of Turkish delight, but there was no way I could say no); even the free slippers they give everyone brought back memories of my last flight there in May.
After the 12 and a half hours cruising at 35,000 feet our plane had landed at Ataturk Airport and they opened the airplane door.
The smells of simits (if a pretzel and a bagel had a baby it would be called a simit) and çay rushed into my nostrils and all of a sudden it hit me: I am in Istanbul...for the next 3 months...
My heart started to beat a little faster and I could not possibly get off the plane fast enough. I was here! The sun was shining, my backpack full of books was on my back, St. Louis Cardinals hat on my head and I was ready for my adventure.
I remembered the airport. The familiar walk to customs. The long lines. The annoyed customs agents. I finally made my way through, grabbed my checked suitcase and my guitar and made my way to where Kay Z (basically my Mama Bear for the next 3 months) and Yesua were waiting for me (In the words of Ryan Gikas, only in the Middle East can you get away with naming your kid Jesus). I saw them and the familiarity continued. Familiar hugs. Familiar smells. Familiar voices. In this mostly strange land that was to become my temporary home, I had my first glimpses at familiarity.
As we got in Kay Z's little Ford Focus (of course the Oklahoman would drive an American car even in the Middle East) and began the drive back to her apartment, I began to remember the roads we were traveling on. The familiar, but always awe-inspiring sight of the Bosphorus Straight. The endless sound of car horns from annoyed drivers. The beautiful mosques. I was suddenly overcome by the amazing love of the Father that I get to live in this beautiful place and partner with him in order to teach people how to love Him more. What??? How did I get to do this?
We reached Kay Z's apartment and I unpacked my suitcase and the three of us went on a little walk to find something to eat. My feet touching the same stones they had 4 months earlier and seeing a lot of the same shops. I remembered the road to her apartment. I remembered the way to the closest metro station. I remembered where I was. I remembered all the Lord had done in me only a short time ago here and the thought of what He was going to do in 3 months as opposed to a week was breathtaking.
The next day I started my Turkish lessons. Kay Z took me to the place I would spend 4 hours a day, every weekday for the month of September. We jumped on the metro, got off at Taxsim (one of the two stops I remembered) and started walking down Istiklal (the main pedestrian street I remembered) towards my class. This was good. I knew this street.
The Lord was/is/and will be so generous that in the midst of this unfamiliarity, of this leap of faith, He keeps handing me little familiar things to show His faithfulness, as if He is saying, "Remember what I did on this street? Now we get to remember it together." It is exciting.
One of the verses I have been clinging to in my time here is found in John 8, "I do nothing on my own authority, but speak as the Father taught me. And He who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone..." I am so thankful for the faithfulness of the Father. He sent me. He is with me. And He won't forsake me. I can say with confidence that even if I didn't have the familiar streets or landmarks to cling to, knowing that I have the ultimate familiar landmark of my soul to cling to. In the midst of unfamiliarity, my anchor of the soul holds fast.