Two Weeks in an Indian Village

When I first arrived in Jagiri, I didn’t expect much. I knew I wouldn’t have any cell phone service or WiFi for two weeks. I knew there were no local shops I could walk to when bored. 99% of the people there don’t speak English. My hosts would only be around for a short while on the weekends. I was essentially on my own, save for one or two people around me who could communicate with me in my language, English. May I just add here that a strong linguistic barrier is the experience for the majority of new immigrants in the U.S.? This was going to be one of the few times I would ever experience this. The old Gabby would’ve been excited by this new challenge! She would’ve delved into studying Dangi and Hindi to be able to communicate with the locals and show that she cared about them and their culture.

 

That was what Gabby in 2015 would’ve done. That’s what I did in Kolkata, with joy! But, I was a different person then. I was more open, less cynical, more trusting of God and of life. 2018 Gabby is much more careful. I’m wary of everyone and every situation, always deciding what my plan is in case something bad happens. Always formulating an escape plan in my head. Constantly aware of what could go wrong. That’s me. So when the truck first arrived in Jagiri, I was already tired of the heat (Gujarat gets HOT HOT HOT) and I was annoyed with the prospect of two weeks with no WiFi. I felt that I would get cabin fever in this village and hate every moment of it. A part of me wanted to hate it, for some reason. I didn’t want to connect. It’s easier that way.

 

As I climbed out of the truck, I just wanted a cold drink, an air-conditioned room, and time alone to stew and complain about my lack of comfort in my circumstances. Instead I was greeted with an orange and yellow flower garland around my neck, tons of small children throwing orange flowers at me (blessing me and welcoming me), and older boys playing Indian drums. I walked between two rows of little Indian children and Indian teenagers. At this point, my heart was still hard toward this place, for reasons unknown to my spirit (which later turned out to be a Satanic attack), so I couldn’t fully embrace the moment. But I felt my heart softening a little bit and I began to feel guilty for feeling a dislike for a place I hadn’t even seen yet. After that, an older woman sat me down and washed my feet. If she and I were alone, I would’ve burst into tears. As she washed my dirty, worn out, scarred, bug-bitten feet, I felt my eyes fill with tears. I felt loved but also immensely guilty at the same time. “Who am I?” I thought. “I don’t deserve this treatment. I’m nobody. They all work so much harder than me. I’m just a complainer. I don’t deserve this. They do.”

 

I walked up the hill to my room, led by the hand by my hosts’ adorable five-year old son and began to feel more connected to this place I had only first seen ten minutes prior. I unpacked my things to a certain extent and came out to the dining room to my first Indian meal in India this year. I was in Goa for a week before this but I couldn’t find any Indian food there. I appreciated this meal. But, my lunch companions enjoyed conversations only in Hindi, stopping once every ten minutes to give me a hint of what they were saying. I felt left out. I didn’t expect everyone to speak English all the time, but my mother taught me that if you’re with someone who doesn’t speak a certain language, you don’t speak it in front of them because it’s rude. My mother always scolded me about speaking Spanish with her in front of my white American friends who didn’t speak the language. I never understood why until I sat at that table, only hearing Hindi around me, distinguishing a few words here and there, but being thoroughly excluded.

 

The next night, they had a graduation ceremony for the 8th graders, the kids I would be giving extra English classes to. They had me on stage, handing out certificates to a few of the kids and I again felt that this was so undeserved. I didn’t do anything to contribute to these kids’ success. I just got there the day before! It was so hard for me to receive any of this honor or hospitality. I felt it was so unwarranted. Before this, I sat with the little girls and watched as all of the schoolchildren performed various tribal dances and sang songs in a few languages. It was all so beautiful. The purity of the culture being celebrated by these children was just too powerful for me to explain. It was something you had to see and feel if you wanted to truly experience it.

 

As the next few days passed, I started teaching English to these 8th graders. In my limited understanding, I assumed I’d be teaching 14- and 15-year olds. Nope. Here in the village, you start school when you start school. One of my students was 24, my exact age. Many of them were 14 or 15, but I had a few in their early 20s. It felt odd to be teaching to girls and guys around my age. We should’ve been peers, but because of my privileged education, I was their teacher. One of my students, we’ll call her J., is a 20-year old woman in 8th grade. She’s wicked smart. She speaks Dangi, Hindi, and Gujarati. She’s currently learning English. She makes the best chai. She has an adorable laugh. She has baby feet compared to my monstrous American feet. Yes, we actually compared our feet because the size difference was so astonishing! But, in the shower one day, I thought about her as I washed my hair and reflected on my time in Jagiri at that point. She is 20 years old and in the 8th grade. When I was 20, I was preparing to finish my junior year of college. I was well on my way to finishing my Cum Laude Bachelor’s degree from a prestigious New York university. Because of where I was born, I was able to achieve this with absolutely no one stopping me and nothing limiting me. It was easy and natural for me to go to college and finish in 4 years. Because of where J. was born, she could not so easily receive an education. I began to feel pity for her, but then God reminded me, “She’s getting an education now. It’s never too late to get an education. Be happy for her.” I am. I’m so happy for J. I hope she goes far in life. What I want for her, for all of my girls, and for my boys, is simply the chance to choose what they want for their respective lives.

 

I was told by a man in Jagiri that it’s common in the village for kids to get married around 15 or 16 years old. This man and I lamented together about how marriage derails their lives, is unnatural for their maturity level, and is harmful to their bodies. Young girls should not be giving birth. I immediately thought of Kajol and I told him about her, tearing up a little. I’m happy that my students aren’t married yet. There’s nothing wrong with them choosing to get married at some point, even if it’s at a young age like 18 or 19, but I want them to be able to choose. I don’t want marriage to be their only option. I want my students to one day tell me, “Ma’am, I got accepted to college!” or “Ma’am, I was offered an incredible job opportuntiy!” I yearn to hear those words and see the joy on their faces.

 

Throughout my two weeks here, I’ve had a few good conversations with these kids. I’ve prayed for some, listened to their stories about their Hindu families pressuring them to become Hindu again, hearing the passion and urgency they have in sharing the Gospel, and seeing how deeply grateful they are to God for revealing Himself to them. I’ve gotten the shyest girls in my class to speak up, even if that’s just whispering the answer to me. But, I definitely shout out that answer and let everyone know who said it! I’ve had fun acting out prepositions with my students (there’s really no other way to do it), creating murder mystery games, reading their stories, watching Tarzan with them, playing Badminton with them, painting their nails, drinking chai with them, and just being with them.

 

The night of the graduation ceremony, I tried to sleep but felt that God wasn’t letting me. He had things He wanted to address with me! As I prayed, I felt the Holy Spirit prompt me to pray for something I didn’t want to pray for. I asked God to help me, “If not love this place, then at least appreciate Jagiri for what it is. Help me learn something here. It’s going to be hard, but I want to at least learn one thing. Clearly You don’t want me in India. So just let me learn something here before I leave.” Well, God answered that prayer. In my ignorance and arrogance, I thought that because I wasn’t “feeling it”, then God must not want me in India. My attitude completely shifted the next day. I went from hating this place to absolutely loving it and not wanting to leave. I’ve come to a place where I want my life to be woven into the lives of my students. I want to follow their success and root for them from the sidelines, inserting myself into their personal narratives whenever they need a shoulder to cry on, a person to vent to, or an advocate to fight for them.

 

Today was our second to last class and we sat in a circle sharing our hearts. I encouraged them to ask me any questions about myself or life. I received a few good questions about my educational background and life in New York, but what I wanted more was to answer their questions about life. I wanted to advise them. Before sending them off for lunch, I told them that if anyone wanted to talk with me privately, I’d stay after class and they could talk to me. Three students stayed back, two girls and a boy. The first girl asked me what to do regarding her problems with a friend who was lying to her. I felt honored to give her advice about her situation. She chose me! She trusted me enough to come to me. But, the second girl brought me to tears and left an indelible mark on my heart. She, close to tears herself, said this, “I feel very alone in my house, so can you stay? Can you stay for a few more days?” As she asked this, she looked down at her notebook where she had written my name “Gabi ma’am” and she began tracing it over and over again with her pen. When she first asked me that, I hardly knew what to say. I wanted to hold her, cry with her, and promise her that I’d stay. But, I didn’t know then that my hosts would allow me to stay here and teach. So I asked a few questions, got a bit more information from her about her home life, and gave her advice. I cried with her, telling her that I grew up in a difficult home as well and that I understand one-hundred percent what she is feeling and suffering. Then we prayed together and I held her hand. I told her that I wished I could have my own house and she could live with me, in freedom. I encouraged her to keep studying so she can break free from her oppressive home and live however she wishes! Education is the best way for her to break free. When she asked me to stay and began crying, I knew for certain that God wants me here. I have no doubt that the vacant teacher position is for me. Those teenagers are God’s and He wants me to steward their little hormonal hearts and guide them throughout the next few years. I’m praying and asking God to let me stay in Jagiri and keep working with these teenagers. I know that God has called me to work with teenagers regarding education, child marriage, and depression/anxiety/and suicide. I know that He will use me in all of these ways here in Jagiri. I pray that He lets me stay.

 

God used this time not only to allow me to love on my students, but to receive love and revelation from them and from Himself. The other day, I sat on a couch in my hosts’ home during a particularly hot afternoon and began writing in my journal. Throughout these two weeks, I read three books on marriage, sexuality, and Jesus. After all of this knowledge intake, I felt the words pour out of me onto my paper. I’ll write separately about this in more detail, but God revealed to me that He doesn’t want me to live a vagabond life, especially not out of fear. He wants me to be open to the idea of a husband, of a home, of a family. He showed me that not all men are abusive. Not all homes are stifling and trampling. Many homes and families are encouraging. They are places of peace. What I want is not a sense of false freedom by roaming about here and there under the guise of “Biblical mission work”, but I want a peaceful home where I can become part of whatever community I settle in. I want “Un hogar de paz”, a peaceful home. I praise God for revealing this to me and ask Him to provide me with this blessing.

 

Blessings,

Gabrielle G.

Advertisements

Feeling Lonely in Goa (Unexpected Encounters)

GOA, INDIA

DAY ONE

Welp. I didn’t expect this. Perhaps it’s the jetlag or the overwhelming sense of solitude/anonymity, but I felt terribly lonely here in Goa.

It was my first day so I suppose I shouldn’t have been too disappointed or too dramatic, but I felt disappointed already. I was itching to leave Goa already. The ants in my room were insane and they wouldn’t leave me alone. It was incredibly hot and the fan I had wasn’t doing much. The only other foreigners here were Russian, or so I thought, and they don’t speak English so we couldn’t communicate. The only people who talked to me were Indians, which I honestly don’t mind. I just wish I could make friends here.

Despite feeling this way, I did have two amazing encounters with Indians here. The first one happened at the restaurant where I ate breakfast. The second one happened at a clothing shop around the corner from my Airbnb.

That morning, for breakfast, I walked out of my Airbnb, went the wrong way (the longer way), and ended up at a restaurant called Sunshine. While walking there, I passed through a small area with just Indians. The women wore sarees and were sorting through rice and lentils. The kids ran around, chasing each other. It was beautiful. This is the India that I remember so fondly.

At the breakfast place, I had an amazing cheese and mushroom omelette with some of the best masala chai in the world. The owner of the restaurant, Vijay, approached me and asked me what I was thinking about. I lied and said, “Oh, I’m just thinking about WiFi. Do you have it here?” He put in the WiFi information and sat across from me, staring into my soul! He asked me the basic questions, “Where are you from?” “Where are you staying?” “How long are you here?” and he gave me some advice. He said, “Don’t think too much about the painful things you’ve experienced. You won’t enjoy yourself here if you constantly think about the past. Your body is here but your mind is elsewhere. Push past that. Push through that.”

That gave me so much to think about, even though I wasn’t able to see how I could work through my anxiety and regrets about the past.

Later that day, I hid in my Airbnb room, praying for the fan to supernaturally become an air-conditioner, and feeling like I would pass out from the heat. I felt dehydrated and jetlagged.

Endeavoring to explore my neighborhood, Mandrem, a little more, I put on an Indian dress, some sandals, and walked around the corner to a more populated area than before. An adorable little Indian girl called to me from her clothing shop across the street, “Didi!” I walked over and when she realized I wasn’t Indian and didn’t speak Hindi, her mother came over and we had a long chat where she tried to sell me clothing for Rs. 15,000 and I said I’d pay no more than Rs. 3,000. After a back and forth barter which I wasn’t comfortable with, I told her I’d buy three things, get henna on my hands, and get my eyebrows threaded by her for Rs. 4,000 which was still a lot. But, I knew I was in a tourist town so there’s that automatic surcharge.

While sitting on the floor with this woman, Sita, I learned that she was from a neighboring state, Karnataka, and she works here during the tourist season. I felt so happy to be back in communication and communion with Indian people. I began to feel better about my trip to India. There I was, making connections with Indians on the first day! I left with a beautiful henna design on my hands and a slightly more positive outlook on my time in Goa.

 

More on my week in Goa to come. 🙂

 

 

Goodbye, America

Wow. I can’t believe I’m actually at this point. After three years of dreaming, praying, hoping, crying, cursing, screaming, and all of that good stuff, I’m finally leaving the U.S. I have plans that will keep me for 6 months in India, but it’s likely that I’ll be able to stay on longer. I have no intention of coming back to the U.S. for quite some time. Seeing the amount of school shootings, shootings of unarmed people of color, and the disgusting way the U.S. treats immigrants and Puerto Rico, I knew I could no longer live in such a place. The facade of freedom in this country is strong. No country is perfect, but the U.S. loves to pretend that we’ve got it all together, that we’re NUMBER ONE! We’re not even close.

As I reflect on my 24 years of living in the U.S., most of them spent in New York, I think about all of the amazing things that being an American has provided me. I have an incredibly strong passport, one that people trust and respect around the world. I was able to study at college with no problems whatsoever. I was able to live on my own and work, building up a career for myself. When I had my period, I wasn’t shunned or cast aside from the rest of society. No one forced me or pressured me to get married.

I was able to walk around my neighborhood at night and feel safe (except when it came to drug dealers -____- ).  I was able to freely post on social media about my disdain for Donald Trump and how much I dislike this country. When called in to jury dury, I was able to look the judge in the eyes and tell him, “I can’t serve on this jury because I don’t trust cops.” A cop’s testimony was going to be included. He asked me why and I responded with, “Cops systematically assassinate black people.” I was easily dismissed from jury duty and wasn’t silenced or attacked for speaking the truth. After Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico and the U.S. government did nothing, I openly railed against the government and attended protests in NYC with no fear for my safety. 

No one expects me to do less because I am a woman. No one thinks there’s a stopping point to my dreams. I can do whatever I want. I can easily work hard, land a well-paying job, and watch the money flow in. It wouldn’t be a struggle for me to develop that kind of life. Most of the people I know are quite content with that kind of life. Yet, I am not. 

It is insane to most people that I’m choosing to leave behind a life of luxury to pursue something else, something bigger, something of eternal significance. I’m choosing to live a life in a new place where I’ll have to learn a new language (or three), figure out how everything works, and develop a new life there. 

While thinking about how hard this is going to be for me, even though I know people there, even though it’s not my first time there, a realization came to my mind. This is how foreigners feel when they begin new lives in the U.S. They have countless hopes and dreams. Many of them don’t speak English. They live below the radar, cleaning after us, cooking for us, and managing our gardens/yards. They don’t want to be seen too much. They just want a better life.

I’m going in search of a better life, but not for myself. I’ve already been given so much. I have no expectations of great wealth or health. I want to show women and girls how incredibly special they are. I want them to learn that God made them to do great things with their lives. I trust that He will help me do this.

So as this chapter of my life closes, well it’s really more of a book (24 years!), I look toward the future with thick anticipation, a little fear, and trust in a God who knows what my heart needs. 

Jesus paid it all; all to Him I owe.

Blessings,

Gabrielle G.

Struggling with Anxiety and Fear (India)

So, just the other day I realized that I have two weeks before I fly to India. Gee. Just two weeks! I feel like I haven’t done any prepping at all. I guess I felt like it was such a distant date that I didn’t feel the rush to prepare. Well, I’m rushing now.

As I begin preparing more earnestly, I’ve begun to experience something I didn’t really expect: FEAR. When I think about serving with the organization in Gujarat, I feel no fear. Believers will be there with me, to house me, feed me, and keep me safe. In Kolkata, I have no shortage of people I can call and be with. I probably have twenty people on hand in Kolkata. I’m super blessed.

The fear comes when I think about Goa, the first stop on my trip. I’ll be there alone, for a week. Goa is a party town. There will be a lot of drinking and drugs. Now, I’m not going anywhere near that. I’ll be staying away from all of the parties, and I will never go out late at night. I’ve been to India before; this is pretty standard. 

But, for some reason, this wave of fear rushed over me today as I thought about Goa. Although the Indian government has declared Goa the safest state in India for women, I felt afraid. What if something happens to me? What if someone robs me? What if someone in the hostel hurts me? Who do I know in Goa? No one!

Now, I think that if this fear were of God, meaning that God didn’t want me in Goa, He would’ve told me that WAY before. I had a plan to see Goa for months. I was excited when I booked my flight and accommodations, feeling absolutely no fear. You guys probably know I have a bit of a nervousness about me, so it’s natural that I would have feared Goa from the beginning. But I didn’t! I felt no sense of danger whatsoever. I knew I’d be safe because I have God and I know I’ll be staying away from the party scene. 

Yet this fear rushed over me today. A lot of fear about my sustainability in India has come to mind lately. I’ve had moments of “This doesn’t make sense. This isn’t going to work. You’re going to fail. What are you even doing with your life?”

The way I see it, these fears can come from one of four sources:
1. Myself
2. Other people
3. The devil
4. God

I believe that if God didn’t want me in Goa, if it were so terribly unsafe, He would’ve impressed that upon my heart from the beginning! 

I think this fear is of Satan. Please stand with me in prayer against fear, but also pray that I sense when it’s God cautioning me or Satan trying to scare me.

There are moments of questioning that I suffer from simply because I have a history of depression and anxiety. I ask myself, “What will I do if my anxiety is out of control?” “What if my depression comes back while I’m in India?” “What if I fail in India, what will I do after that?”

Now, I know I won’t be alone. I’ll have brothers and sisters around me to support me, love me, and care for me. But India is a hard country. It overwhelms all of your senses and as a woman, I have to be extra careful. 

Countless women have done this before me, women who don’t fit in as well as I do. Because of my tan complexion, dark eyes, and dark hair, I don’t stand out too much. There are women with fair skin, red hair, and blue eyes who have gone before me, paving the path for me. They’ve gone and done it all, by His power and for His glory. They undoubtedly faced seasons of anxiety and depression. It comes with the territory of this work. But, those seasons don’t mean the end is here. Our lives and purpose are FINISHED when Christ Himself takes us up to be with Him. As long as our hearts beat and our lungs fill with air, we have purpose here. I have to let Him bring me through these fears as they arise. I have to let Him hold me in these moments when Satan tries to make me think that I will fail and come to ruin.

 

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.” – Luke 4:18

 

Blessings,

 

Gabrielle G.

When Your Family Doesn’t Understand

Readers,

I feel like I’m not even sure where to start with this. I have so many thoughts muddled in my brain that to even begin feels so daunting. But, begin I must and therefore here we go.

If you’ve been a reader of mine for a minute, you know that I have a divine calling for overseas, cross-cultural work. It is a calling that is beyond me. Lord knows I could easily work full-time, invest in a career, marry, and have children here in the U.S. I could go on vacation once a year and sit in a church pew every Sunday. I could give to homeless people sometimes and maybe have a brief chat with them. That would be easy for me. That’s the “American Dream” now.

Yet that is not my calling. Since my childhood, I’ve had a strong feeling that I would not live in the United States, that I would not marry young, and that I would adopt children. I can’t quite explain why I felt this way, but it almost feels as if I was born this way.

If you want to know more about this feeling and how my life has played out as a result, please let me know and I’ll write about it in more detail.

Now, most of you know that I’m going to India for at least two months. While there, I’ll be exploring different parts of India that I’ve never seen before. I expect to see amazing things and meet incredible people. I have a good Father and I know He wants me there! He has made that VERY clear.

As I get ready to go, as I raise funds, and tie up loose ends here in NYC, I’ve felt so much confusion from my family members! A few have said, “Why can’t you just get a full-time job here and build up your career? You can serve Him here.” Others have said things like, “It must be nice to not have to work full-time, take care of kids, and just go travel.” 

If they think I’m going on vacation, they’ve clearly missed the point of everything that I’ve ever written or spoken about. 

While reflecting on all of this, I’ve come to a realization: it’s okay if my blood family doesn’t understand why I’m doing this, why I’m going to India. My eternal family understands and supports me. That’s what matters. Our Lord wasn’t understood by His family or disciples while here on earth, so why should I be understood?

The life I’m choosing, or rather, the life that I feel has been chosen for me, doesn’t make any sense to the world. The world says “make money moves, build an empire, build a kingdom, get what you want.” Oh, I want to build a kingdom alright, but it’s not my kingdom at all. It’s His. I’m going to do kingdom work. 

So, no, it won’t make sense to worldly people that I want to leave all of my possessions, go to a country where I don’t speak any of the languages, and serve my Father. It just won’t. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make much sense to brothers and sisters in the faith either. It’s “too extreme”, “too risky”, “too dangerous” to do what my Father has called for me to do.

Yet He has called me out. I must respond. I must go. He has commanded me. He has commanded us. GO!

Blessings,

Gabrielle G.

Receiving Gifts from God (I’m Really Bad At It)

Readers,

I have a huge confession to make. To be quite honest, I’ve just become more aware of this issue in my life, so it’s not like I’ve been keeping it a secret. If you’ve been a reader of mine for a while, you know that honesty and vulnerability are my creed.

Well, here’s the thing: I don’t know how to accept God’s gifts. I initially was going to write, “blessings”, but I’m so often tempted to think that I have a huge hand in what God blesses me with, that I just couldn’t write that word. I felt God telling me to write, “gifts.”

Now I’m not that good at accepting gifts in general, especially as of late. Because of my incredibly difficult financial instability, I’ve had to receive gift after gift from friends, relatives, strangers, and church family. That’s how I’ve been able to eat and survive since August 2017.

I’ve gotten better at receiving gifts from people, but I definitely have this overwhelming sense of “I have nothing to give in return. I’m so emotionally drained that I honestly can’t take on anyone else’s burdens right now. I can’t even give emotionally. I have nothing to give.”

God is showing me that I’m very incapable of receiving His gifts. There are two reasons for that, as far as I know.

  1. I think that if God gives me a gift, He’s going to take it away or give me something bad to balance it out.
  2. I think that my life is meant to be spent in servitude to God, but not in the receiving of any gifts at all.

I’ll speak on the second reason in this blog post. This realization recently hit me as I’ve been thinking about my upcoming trip to India. As I book each flight, research accommodation, and think about what my Father might do while I’m there, I often find myself saying things like, “Well, if I meet a nice guy, I’ll marry him because I want security and protection. I don’t need it to be romantic. I don’t see that happening for me. I don’t mind.”

On Friday, while speaking with my therapist about this, I began to think about it a bit deeper. As I thought about the marriages I’ve seen happen and the marriages I’ve closely observed, one thing is apparent to me: I don’t think God will bring me a good, loving husband. 

Whether it’s because I saw so much pain in my parents’ marriage or because my friends’ loving marriages seem so out of reach, I’m not sure. It’s probably a combination of both. So I resign myself to putting up walls around my heart, distrusting almost every man I encounter, never finding one good enough for me. While thinking about India, I felt the Holy Spirit say to my heart, “Why don’t you think I can bring you a loving, romantic, strong husband? Why do you think you’ll have to settle? Can’t I do anything?”

This is hard for me. It was hard for me to hear that, because I was so satisfied with, “I’m going to be single. I’m going to serve God. I’m going to suffer and serve Him. I don’t need romantic love. I can do it, just me and God.”

Wow that isn’t healthy at all!!! Why DON’T I think God will give me a wonderful husband? Why do I think serving God equates to constant suffering and sacrificing our joy? That’s so anti-Christ! Jesus celebrated things all the time, so much so that the Pharisees called Him a drunkard and glutton. While Jesus suffered, that suffering didn’t consume His entire life. His life on Earth was a beautiful balance of suffering and celebration, while never losing joy.

God, retrain my brain to understand servitude. Teach me Your ways. Let me be willing to accept Your gifts, even when I don’t feel good enough.

 

Blessings,

 

Gabrielle G.

Coming Full Circle in Faith (With a Little Vomit)

Readers,

The other day, before violently vomiting, going to the hospital, and learning that I have the stomach flu, my father gave me a call. If you’ve been a reader of mine for a while, you know that things with my father have never been easy. I grew up in an emotionally and verbally abusive home. I became a woman who yearned to be loved by men and yet feared men while simultaneously disregarding men’s importance or personhood. It’s an odd dynamic: fearing men while hating them and mocking them. This is something I’m still working through.

My father called me just after I vomited for the first time on the street here in NYC, terribly dramatic I know, and he rang to see how I was. During our conversation, about twenty minutes in, I began vomiting again and he heard it all, bless his soul. On the other end I heard, “Gabby, relax. Gabby, breathe. Gabby, can you hear me?” After each hurl, I gasped for air and feared that I wouldn’t find any. Once that panic sets into your body, it’s hard to get out of it. 

I wiped my mouth, sat back, and listened to my Dad. A few minutes later, I felt much better and I explained to my dad that I think all of these sicknesses are a result of an evil, demonic attack. Considering how no doctor can understand why this is happening to my body, why I’m experiencing all of these erratic symptoms, and taking into account the time that it started, it seems clear to me that this is an evil attack against my body, to prevent me from my calling. Of course to my Dad, a new believer, this was shocking and confusing.

I explained some parts of the book of Job to him, in what I call the GIV (Gabby International Version). Essentially I said, “So God was like, ‘Wow, Satan, look at my servant Job. Isn’t he awesome? Doesn’t he love Me so well?’ And Satan was like, ‘Yeah right, God. He only loves You because You gave him all this stuff. Take that away and he’ll curse You to Your face.’ Then God was like, ‘Okay, take his stuff but you can’t touch him physically.’ So then Satan was like, ‘Okay’ and took everything material from Job in one day. Then Job still loved and honored God so Satan was like, ‘Aight lemme mess with his body. Then he’ll curse You!’ God was like, ‘Okay, but you can’t kill him.’ Then Satan messed with his health. So clearly, dad, this is what’s going on with me. Job wasn’t a one-time thing. Things like this do happen!”

I know, I’m quite the story-teller.

Then I asked my Dad if we could pray together and he asked me the one question I wanted to hear all of my life: “Gabby, how do you pray with another person?” 

What honor. What responsibility. Me, a twenty-four year old woman was to teach my almost sixty-year old father what it meant to pray with another person. I chose my words carefully, making sure to avoid all Christianese.

“Well, Dad, you’re basically just talking to God with another person. And remember when I was a kid and we would pray at the table and Mom would say, ‘Yes, Lord.’ ‘Mhmm.’ Well, she was just agreeing with us in prayer. Jesus tells us that where two or more are gathered in His name, He will be there. So of course Jesus is with us all the time and we don’t need another human to talk to Jesus. But, when we gather with another in any aspect of life, we’re stronger, right? That’s all it is.”

We sat and prayed together for about ten minutes. That was the first time he had ever really prayed with someone. Wow, God. After praying for my Dad’s salvation for years, almost a decade, he finally came to faith in You. He is beginning to know You. I can’t believe You’re letting me help my dad in his faith journey. I can’t believe You want me to do this!

Readers, never give up hope on your family members and friends. God works on His own timing. Jesus will save. He still seeks and saves the lost.

Blessings,

Gabrielle G.

 

Our Souls Reek (The Solution)

Readers,

On the train yesterday, consumed with thoughts about my health and my future, a homeless man came on the train. He looked absolutely disheveled. His hair was a mess, one pant leg was raised to his knee, his clothes had holes, and he acted like he was high, drunk, or both. Immediately I looked upon him with pity and felt helpless. I had no food to give him. Others on the train offered change and dollar bills, averting eyes the whole time. 

As I watched him walk through the train, the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, “How he looks is how your souls are.” Without Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Father, our souls are dirty, homeless, high/drunk people. We reek without Christ. Although we attempt to put our dirtiness aside and present a clean image to the world, God sees our hearts and souls. Both are wicked. Both are dirty, without Him. 

So don’t you look down upon a homeless person and judge them for what they look like they do (drugs, sex, alcohol), when you know your soul looks just like that. Although you put on a clean mask for the general public, Christ sees the truth. But, with Christ as your Savior, God looks upon you as clean. He sees you through the lens of Christ. You are spotless in His eyes.

Last night I saw a documentary called “Liberated” about the new “sexual revolution.” It was made by a Christian filmmaker and it poses various questions about the way our youth culture relates to sexuality, relationships, masculinity, and femininity. After I watched that documentary, I was left feeling disgusted with our culture, this “hookup” culture. It’s so damaging and disruptive to the holy way that God fashioned us to express our sexuality.

I must admit: I am not perfect regarding my sexuality. No one is. We are all sexually broken people, looking for something to give us that fix, make us feel alive, and temporarily satisfy us. Some of us find it in casual sex with random people and others find it in porn and masturbation. I fall into the latter camp. Although I’ve gotten a good hold on this temptation for the most part, there are moments where the temptation is strong and I give in to it, always feeling like it’s someone else. It’s not really me. My true self is the one typing this blog post. My sinful self is a whole other person. I always hate myself afterward, but there’s grace for me. God has grace. God understands. Jesus was tempted in every way, which means sexually, yet He never sinned. He understands the temptation.

There is nothing wrong with wanting sex. Most of us want sex, unless there’s some severe brokenness that prevents us from that natural desire. We yearn to be united with another. That is holy, in a marriage between a man and wife. Outside of that frame, the picture is distorted. But no matter what sexual sin and brokenness you’ve fallen into or have been victim to, you are a victim no longer. You are no longer a slave to sin. You are not ruined. Never! Christ can and will redeem you. Call on His name and let Him heal you in a way specifically designed for you.

Beloved, if you find yourself sexually broken, I recommend checking out Mo Isom’s new book: Sex, Jesus, and the Conversations the Church Forgot. It hasn’t hit stores yet, but you can pre-order it on Amazon.com. Be encouraged. We’re all sexually broken. Some of us have same-sex attraction. Some of us have other sinful attractions, things that we don’t even want to speak about, like attraction to children or incestuous feelings. Be strengthened. God’s grace covers you and His love covers your sins. Yet He does not wish for your sin to remain where it is. He yearns to repair and revive what you thought was long dead. 

If you find yourself watching porn, masturbating, texting sexually explicit things to another person, having casual sex, having unnatural sex, there is hope for you. There is always hope. That hope is in the person of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. He is the Messiah, the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords. Through relationship with Him, you will be restored. Beloved, it is a process, so be patient with yourself and God.

I’m always here if you need a chat. ❤

 

Blessings,

 

Gabrielle G.

 

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 New International Version (NIV)

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men[a] 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Living with Hypochondria as a Christian

Readers,

This is something I don’t really talk about that often. It’s really painful for me because I still live in this, to a certain extent. Today I’m going to be honest and write about my hypochondria.

But, first, let’s take a look at how the dictionary defines “hypochondria”:

abnormal anxiety about one’s health, especially with an unwarranted fear that one has a serious disease.

Last July, I began experiencing hypochondria. I remember the exact day it all began. My father had woken me up at 4 AM and told me that he thought he was having a heart attack. I sprang into action and waited with him, calming him while the ambulance came. At the hospital, we learned that it was simply a panic attack. This event happened two or three days after my brother was rushed into surgery for a life-threatening bone infection. Later that day, after waking up from a long nap, I began having back pain and I felt this overwhelming fear. Something whispered to me, “You’re having a heart attack.” I tried to shake it off so I went back to sleep. Immediately I felt panic rush over me. I could hardly breathe or think straight. I called my mom and told her that I wanted to go to the hospital. 

En route to the hospital, the panic increased and I literally thought I was dying. I began hyperventilating and I repeated “Jesus, please don’t take me!” Mom prayed and she sped to the hospital. After getting checked out, I was told that it was just a panic attack. “Just” a panic attack. Clearly these doctors have never experienced a panic attack. It feels bigger than you. It feels all-consuming. It becomes your reality. Your mind and body begin freaking out and no one around you can tell that there’s something wrong with you.

For the next few months, I suffered constant fear that I was dying. Some days I feared a heart attack, then I feared that God would supernaturally stop my heart, then I feared I would have a blood clot like my Dad, then I feared a stroke, then I feared internal bleeding, then I feared a brain tumor, and the list goes on and on.

These days it takes all of me and help from my parents to convince me that I will never get a blood clot, that I’m a healthy 24-year old who cannot have a heart attack, and that all of the other things I fear are just irrational. But, when you’re so far gone in your fear, that fear becomes your reality. To my brain, it is completely logical that I would die of some disease that older people typically have. I could look around at people my age or older that are obese and obviously very unhealthy, yet I can make excuses for why it would happen to me and not them.

I think that the entirety of last year truly affected the way I view health and wellness. I know it’s not a promise from God and therefore I began to fear losing my health. It got to the point that I told God, “Okay, God, if I get sick, I get sick. But please give me a long illness. I don’t want to have a sudden death because I live alone and no one would know.” That is what my brain thought about all the time. It’s still hard for me to stop my brain from thinking these things.

After going to the hospital so many times with my Dad last year, I think some type of anxious spirit latched onto me and I let it feed on my soul. Going to the hospital was normal for me. Growing up, my mother had hypochondria as well and she used to go to the doctor all the time. I had once dealt with this issue before, but when I was 16-17. It had been YEARS since I gave a second thought to my health. When I did, it became all-consuming.

I would stay inside because I didn’t want to die on the street, alone and helpless. That’s how bad it got. I would constantly jiggle my legs to keep my blood flowing, so I wouldn’t get a blood clot. I still do this. I look at my legs all the time, making sure they’re not swollen and I’d lay in bed at night, obsessively checking my pulse to make sure it wasn’t too fast, both of which would indicate a clot. The Internet told me that people over 50 usually get them, but that hasn’t stopped me from freaking out about it. It feels bigger than me. I used to go to the hospital once every couple of months, convinced I was dying. My doctor saw me almost every week for a new “ailment.”

I’m not writing to you from a “I’ve made it through to the other side and now I’m all better” position. I still fight for my sanity regarding health issues every. single. day. It’s a daily battle. Despite hearing God tell me that I won’t die, that He holds my life, that I’m not sick, my brain immediately goes to fear. 

One day, while just walking around, God said to me, “You’re so afraid of dying. You’re so consumed by the thought of dying that you’re not truly living. You’re really just afraid to live. When you were depressed, Satan tried to get you to kill yourself. Now he’s trying to make you think you’re dying.”

He’s so right, obviously. I was so obsessed with death that I didn’t give much thought to my life. I didn’t fight hard for things in life because I felt like I was going to die at any moment. What was the point of it all?

Readers, I ask for prayer in this area. I want to be fearless. I used to be completely fearless before 2015. I used to be confident, loud, bold, and fearless with everything in life. I KNEW that God had my back. I want to get to a place where I completely trust Him again.

It’s hard being a Christian and reading verses from the Bible that tell us not to worry, but then to suffer from hypochondria and panic attacks. It feels out of our control. We are commanded not to worry. But, how do we obey when our brain seems to be taking over?

Have you guys every suffered from hypochondria or other anxiety issues? Let’s have an open space to discuss, pray, and heal.

Blessings,

Gabrielle G.

When God Brings Back Best Friends

Readers,

I have experienced so many instances lately of God’s sovereign timing. I’ve received apologies three years after I wanted them, yet right at the moment when it mattered. I’ve run into people I hadn’t seen in years, but at exactly the right time when I knew it was from God.

God has also brought back one of my best friends. This friend and I were best friends and sisters for about two years before graduating from college and losing touch, something we never thought would happen. I remember the day we met: I was late for my first day of an English class my sophomore year of college and saw that there were only two seats left in the crowded classroom. Both empty seats were next to a Muslim girl in a hijab. I looked at each girl and decided to sit next to one of them. I’m not sure why I chose this girl, but I think it was God’s influence. We sat next to each other, introduced ourselves, and from that moment, we were friends. From the beginning I knew she was a Muslim and she knew I was a Christian. She was my first Muslim friend and I was her first Christian friend. I felt like our friendship was so beautiful and so powerful. In a world where people from both of our respective faiths hated each other, we chose to love each other.

She taught me some Urdu words and explained how Muslims view Jesus, or Isa. I taught her how Christians view Jesus and how we see God as our Father. I’ll never forget one of the most beautiful moments in our friendship. While living at the dorms, I so desperately wanted to have a sleepover with her, but I knew that her mother wouldn’t consent. Her mother didn’t know me at all. Surprisingly, when she asked her mom, she said yes! That night, after feeding her a meal of mushy rice and beans (I’ve perfected my rice-making abilities since then), which she claimed to love, we sat on my dorm bed and talked about life. She confided in me that she witnessed her father’s death and felt guilt from that experience. I sat there, nodding, listening, praying for her. All of a sudden, she burst into tears and I hugged her, rubbing her back and telling her that God is her Father and He wants to take this pain away from her. She sobbed and said, “I don’t even know why I’m crying. I’ve never even told anyone about this before.” We had only known each other for a few months at that time, but I was convinced that the Holy Spirit was using me to touch her heart and soul. 

As she wiped her eyes, she laughed a little, out of relief. I could see that so much was lifted off of her shoulders. That night, as she slept on my air mattress on the floor, I looked down at her and prayed, “Jesus, give her a dream. I know how You use dreams to speak to many Muslim people. Lord, give her a dream.”

I woke up the next morning waiting to hear all about this dream. She didn’t say anything. “Well, maybe she had a dream and just didn’t tell me,” I thought. A week later, I “randomly” ran into her at school and she said, “Gabby, I had a dream! Last night I had a dream that I was walking with my boyfriend and looked away for a second. When I looked back, you were in his place and all of a sudden this peace and warmth washed over me. It was so incredibly peaceful.”

Now any other person would say, “Woah, looks like she’s in love with you.” Nah. I know that I was merely a representation of Jesus in her dream. She saw the Jesus in me and felt peace. She went to class and I walked away rejoicing and praising God for what He had done! She had a dream about Him!

After graduating, we completely lost touch. We didn’t really talk for almost two years. Much of that was because we simply didn’t see each other anymore. She lived far away and had a full-time job. I was in the same position. Over time we just became used to not talking, although I never forgot about her and she apparently never forgot about me. While texting about seeing the new Hindi film “Padmaavat”, we became reconnected. I remember thinking, “Who would see this film with me?” She was the only person I could think of who would want to join me.

Since that day, we began texting more often and picked up our friendship right where we left off. It was like nothing had changed. One night, I sent her the e-mail/blog post I shared here a few days ago about my decision to move to India. She called me crying and said, “I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for you. I’m so sorry I didn’t put effort into maintaining our friendship. I’m so sorry.” 

This was a shock to me! I didn’t find her guilty of anything at all! But we both cried a little over the phone and talked for an hour. She confided in me about her mom’s health struggles and how she’s has become the primary breadwinner now. We talked about my potential future shaadi in India and how we’re going to sneak her into the country (she’s Pakistani.) It was like nothing had changed but time and our level of cynicism. Working and being an actual adult had already taken its toll on us.

If she had come back into my life at any other time, I don’t think it would have been as powerful as it is now. She came back at a time when I am planning to move to India to serve Jesus and others. I truly believe that Jesus brought us back together now to grow us in our friendship and sisterhood. I believe that He will use me again to shine more truth about Him to her. I want my life to be a living testimony that I serve a living God.

Pray for that, please.

 

Blessings,

 

Gabrielle G.