One of the greatest reasons I enjoyed my previous job was the opportunity to experience different cities, regions and parts of the country.  I absorb all of the energy in the atmosphere, whatever it is, for better or for worse.  It is what I most enjoy about traveling. I don’t need to see the tourist sites, I just like to wander around and absorb the energy and atmosphere of the place.

As I stated in my last post, life here is very hard.  I have had many people from Beirut ask me how I can possibly survive spending all my time next to the Naba’a, the most depressing and soul sucking slum neighborhood imaginable.  The people are like soulless zombies here. And I do not mean this as a scary thing, but they look like the walking dead.  You can feel every emotion that these war weary people have endured. They don’t like their life in the Naba’a any more than you would if you lived here.

You may think you are enduring, adapting and tolerating the traffic, noise, trash, filth, chaos, clutter and crush of zombie like people around you, but then one day you realize you are running on empty. Below empty.  Brief expeditions with visiting teams that allow for a few minutes of beauty looking at the beach aren’t doing the trick to feel like you have spent time outside the area.  Such trips are always rushed and while beautiful, but for me the beach has never had quite the allure as the mountains.

Yes. I was running below empty. I don’t think I have  felt as bad as I did the entire time I have been here as I did last week.  It is difficult for most to understand, comprehend or even empathize with this.  How can they understand here when they have lived in this their whole life?  I felt like a butterfly who was being held captive in someone hands. The tighter I was held, the more my wings were damaged and the more my soul was crushed.  I didn’t think I could do it anymore.

Adding to my misery was me looking at my Facebook wayback posts throughout the month of May, I reminisced on beautiful trips and I realized how in the midst of crazy work and travel schedule, I had always managed to see amazing places and go on beautiful hikes.  All the pictures lined up year after year of the most incredible locations and beautiful people and I felt jealous of the person that I once was and all that I had lost. All that I walked away from on my own accord!

But, hold on. I had a hike coming. When I first heard of a long 25K hike weeks ago, I was immediately excited and couldn’t stop talking about it.  There is nothing that is ever a balm to my soul like the mountains.  There is nothing that makes me feel closer to God than being in the mountains and nothing ever leaves my soul feeling more refreshed, rejuvenated and revived than a hike in the mountains.  After a good hike,  I feel like Moses coming down from the mountains with his face radiant from speaking with God face to face.

Even the day before the hike, I was lingering on flights back to the USA longer than I ever had before.  Never have I felt my soul crushed like it felt on that day and I was worried. What if the hike didn’t really help? What if one of my favorite outlets no longer revived me like it has before?  I didn’t think I could survive another week in Lebanon if that was the case.  Despite the temptation to quit, I hung in there till my hike came.

As soon as the bus left the city and began to climb the hills and I saw mountain peaks with haze in their valleys in the distance, I felt the relief in my soul. It was as if a thousand lbs had been lifted off my shoulders and the pressure was gone.  “I can do this.” I said.

By the end of the day, I should have been tired but my soul was soaring so high that I didn’t even think about my tired legs. Between conversations with new friends, quiet time in prayer and reflection and even some time just focused on nothing but each step I was taking,  I was revived and ready for another grueling week in the crazy chaos and soulless slums of the Nab’aa.

It was not just the hike, I know I had people that had me on their heart to pray for me last week.  I am so grateful for those that hold me up in prayer!  Not just hold me up, but reach out when prompted to give me an aptly timed word that speaks to my heart and gives me the ability to keep going. I am still here and I am still surviving!