A Life Overseas – ‘Tis the Season of Incongruity

Deck the halls with calls for charity! Fa-la-la-la-laaa, la-la-la-la!

‘Tis the season of incongruity! Fa-la-la-la-laaa, la-la-la-la!

#CottageChristmas or starving children? Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la!

My heart is caught and I cannot win this thing! Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-laa.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t do this. The sense of incongruity is overwhelming me this Christmas. I go from essays and photos of unbelievable beauty to my current reality, which includes messy, messy relationships, rain and mud up to my knees, no sign of Christmas lights and beauty,and long, long hours of no electricity.

I scroll through Instagram and the abundance of beauty is eye-popping. Pristine cottages bedecked with lights and color and living rooms with soft lights and all white furnishings with that splash of red and green color that just makes them pop. And then in the next picture, I catch my breath as I see a starving child in Yemen and an organization begging the world to take notice.  I breathe fire as I see another picture reminding me of the never-ending war in Syria and the continued devastation on people. And it hits home as I take my own pictures here in Kurdistan and I am reminded that there aren’t enough resources to meet the needs of the population, honor killings are still part of the landscape, and we can barely get funds for a single project.

‘Tis the season of incongruity – the season where the contrast feels too stark and I don’t feel like I have the ability to cope with these conflicting images.

And yet…

And yet, God’s story has always been a story of conflicting images. There is the image of the manger and the image of the cross, the image of judgement and the image of mercy, the image of truth and the image of grace. What I am seeing and feeling is nothing new to God.

God came into a world of contrasts. A world of the beauty and the broken. He came in a way that was so gentle, so unassuming – how could a baby threaten anyone? He came into a setting that was the height of incongruity – a king in a manger. For 33 years he lived as one who is unknown, going through daily life as we do – an image that is so mind boggling I stop thinking about it. We are told that he set aside greatness and “humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death” – a violent, horrific death. And then, the glorious resurrection and the words that we live by every single day: “He is not here! He is risen!”

My heart longs for peace and harmony in a world of broken incongruity. Read the rest of the piece here.

5 thoughts on “A Life Overseas – ‘Tis the Season of Incongruity

  1. Marilyn, before I opened this post this morning I was just thinking of these contrasts and pondering how we live in both worlds. I was pondering the photos my husband took a few months ago in Yida, the refugee camp in South Sudan, home to over 80,000. I particularly thought of a woman he met and the daily life they live and asked the question how does one return and then wander through the Cleveland Art Museum all decked out for the holidays? How do we experience the grace needed to live in both worlds, appreciating the beauty in both places? The beauty of a Monet or Degas and the beauty of a smile so wide and filled with joy yet imprisoned in the refugee camp? There certainly is beauty in each, but vastly different. I can see those beautiful faces as they sang for my husband of the joy of knowing Christ. I am sitting here gazing on our Christmas tree, with lights brightening up the morning darkness and enjoying its beauty, simpler this year, but that is only because time is fleeting this year with other needs and long work days.

    Thank you for pointing out that Jesus came into the world with its own conflicting images. Manger/Cross and the Crown by way of the Cross. Truly our world is broken with some images we see the broken and in other images we see but a facade hiding the broken.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. HI Marilyn, How are you and Cliff?

    Thank you for your newsletters and tweets reminding me of your part of the world and your experiences and wisdom.

    I wanted to ask about your fundraising project and how things had gone. I couldn’t afford to contribute at the time but can now and was wondering is it still collecting money and what is your focus? Did the students get to the South Africa conference? How is the study year going? Is the conference in March that you wanted to plan going ahead?

    Sorry to blast you with questions especially when I wasn’t one of your original contributors but I was inspired and if I can contribute now I’d like to.

    Best wishes to you both Trisha



    1. Ahhh- I’m so glad you asked…! I’ve been writing a piece in advocacy because the story is so long and hard and not over. Basically they were refused a visa to S Africa and we didn’t have time to appeal. So I helped them rewrite the abstract and submit it to a conference in Portugal. It was accepted! So we applied for visas and they were refused. So we appealed. The appeal went through and the visas were granted, but the passports had to be sent to UAE. We now had 5 days before the new conference. I was in the US and phoned Cliff – he called UAE…. the office was going to be closed for 5 days because of a UAE holiday…. it has been unbelievable. We sent the passports anyway and are awaiting their return. I am now working on getting a nursing program in Portugal to allow them to present and to visit hospitals and clinics in Lisbon. The barriers have been unbelievable and have felt unbelievably discouraging. This is what Kurds face every, single, day.


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