He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress and for his children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Entrusted

Entrust:  To commit to another with confidence

Yes, I'm back to this.  If you read my rambling post from a few weeks ago, I warned you that I was processing!  Still am.  Thinking and praying about what God has entrusted me with and what that really means.  I mean look at that definition.  Does it scare you a little bit like it does me to think that the creator of this universe has "committed (insert whatever thing here) to me with confidence"?!?!  I mean does He KNOW me?  (yes)  Is He CRAZY?!  (strangely no...)

Here's where I've been- the parable of the talents.  The master returns to collect what he's entrusted from His servants.

"'Master', he said, 'you entrusted me with five talents.  See, I have gained five more.' His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant!  You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.  Come and share your master's happiness!"
Matthew 25:20-21

As I've meditated on this passage over the past several weeks, God has brought other things along for me to consider.  In my Experiencing God  Day by Day devotional book, I read these words:

 "Your ability to serve God is not based on your past, but on your faithfulness today.  If you are faithful with the task God entrusts to you, God will enable you to accomplish it."  (see, there's that "today" theme again!) 

 Let me just tell you that I have a very unique ability (that I've passed on to at least 2 of my 4 daughters) to worry like nobody's business.  That in itself is a topic of another post, but take it from me, in the world of worry, I can beat you hands down.  I promise.  God knows this and He knows how quickly I can become overwhelmed as I consider the tasks of mothering, providing for our family, being the wife I desire to be.  For all these reasons, I am so thankful for this theme He has me camping on in this season!  Because, truly, life is simply overwhelming.  The tasks at hand always seem to big. Raising 4 daughters to be women who fear the Lord and desire to serve Him- well that's just too much for me!  Thankfully, not too much for God.  He gives me bite-sized, today-sized pieces which is about all I can handle.  He calls me to be faithful with today's task and today's task only- whatever that may be.   Am I being faithful in prayer?  in personal discipleship and discipleship of my kids?  in preparation for whatever tomorrow holds as He directs? 

See, as a world class worrier, even in my prayer time, I can quickly go from praising Him for His provisions for the daily task at hand to fretting over this or that and thinking "I JUST CAN'T DO IT!!!".  And always, always, always, He is so faithful.  Here's what He reminded me of on Thankgiving morning...

"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work."
2 Corinthians 9:8  

HE is the one who gives me what I need for the task that He's given me.  And not just sometimes for some of the tasks.  No, IN all things AT all times, His grace will provide ALL I need.  

I've also been reading Paul's letters.  This jumped out at me...

"So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God.  Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.  I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.  My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent.  It is the Lord who judges me.  Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes.  He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts.  At that time each will receive his praise from God."

Holy cow!  It's overwhelming enough to think of my precious little ones that I've been entrusted with (that's mainly how I've felt led to apply the  Matthew passage to my life at this point), but to move on from that and realize that as a believer, I am entrusted with the "secret things of God"!  Good grief.  How unworthy am I!  Thankfully God does not expect my worthiness.   No, He knows how ridiculously unworthy I am, yet by His amazing grace He chooses to entrust me anyway.   He does, however, expect my faithfulness.  And as the above passage says, my judgment ultimately comes from Him alone.  He alone knows my heart and my true motives. When it's all said and done, from the daily mothering tasks and ins and outs of running a household to the challenges of learning and communicating in Arabic to being what Jason needs to support him in his work,  may I prove faithful and seek the praise of Christ alone!  

Sunday, November 25, 2012

An Overseas Thankgiving

 For me, Thanksgiving is the hardest overseas holiday.  Probably because it is really not recognized in any form- and why should it be, I guess?  But at least for Christmas and Easter, even in the Middle East, there are many who recognize and celebrate these major holidays- not so with Thanksgiving.  Last year, I was not in such a great place spiritually and I actually found myself quite grumpy about the whole thing.  I was extremely annoyed with everyone's daily Thanksgiving posts on Facebook.   I was pretty much the grinch of Thanksgiving.  But I did better this year.  It's still somewhat bitter sweet to be away from extended family during the holidays, but we try very hard to create our own family traditions and memories with the girls and make the time special

This year, not only did I get over my grinch like spirit with the whole "today I am thankful for" thing, I even had the girls make a thankful tree for us.  I do try and help us get beyond being thankful for family, friends, God, food- all the typical things.  Yes, of course we are thankful for those things, but I want a little more umph behind our "thankfuls".  


We celebrate each year with a group of ex-pats that we have a home fellowship with and we usually do that on Friday.  Well, I just can't let Thursday go by unrecognized.  That and the fact that my husband wants us to have our very own Thankgiving leftovers has led to us doing our own Thankgiving meal with our family and sometimes a few others on Thanksgiving day itself.  This year we had some new friends come celebrate with us.  We surprised the girls Thursday morning be letting them skip school so we ALL got to sleep in which was nice.  Because I had already done most of our cooking earlier in the week causing my kitchen to look like this...


but resulting in THIS yumminess (among other things)

Anyway, since I'd done most of the work earlier in the week, we were able to relax (ish) on Thursday and just enjoy family time.  

Maddie and Naomi set and decorated the table and even made place cards for everyone. 
The set up of our apartment at this point does not allow for a dining room table.  We have a kitchen table that pulls out into a big square so that works for now.  In most countries in the Middle East you can find beautiful handmade tablecloths like the one below from Syria.  I found this one on a recent trip to Lebanon and loved the multi-colored pattern.  The brown accent napkins go with another table cloth that I have but it's for a long dining room style table so for now I just use the napkins.


To digress for a minute.  We had some friends over on Saturday night for Thanksgiving leftovers and this time I used one of my other Syrian tablecloths.  This is one I also bought years ago in Lebanon for my dining room table, but it got bleach spilled on half of it, so my wonderful Memommy cut it in half for me and finished it off and now it fits perfectly on my square table.  I love the way it looks with our feista dishes!

Anyway, back to Thanksgiving.  We had a Pioneer Woman/Memommy Thanksgiving dinner, at least that's where most of my recipes came from.  

I brined my turkey using this recipe from Pioneer Woman.  To go with it, we also had:
Memommy's dressing
Memommy's rolls (pictured above)
Memommy's sweet potato casserole
cranberry sauce with horseradish and dijon
broccoli salad
mashed potatoes
strawberry pretzel layered jello salad
Memommy's pumpkin pie

Oh, and I almost forgot.  This year we have a satellite that gets American channels in real time so we got to watch the Macy's parade live- yay!  So, I just had to make an appetizer to go along with parade watching before dinner.  

I found this recipe for baked brie with cranberries and pecans and it was AMAZING!

 Digging in..

Turkey carving!
Mia' favorite part...

Jason also upped our satellite for the next few months so that he can catch the end of football season and so we can watch college basketball and NBA.  So excited that we finally get sports on our TV and don't have to worry about whether or not the internet will be working.  Course we'll still have to get up at 3 AM for some games.  Let's hope it's worth it this year!  Go Tigers Go! 

So another overseas Thanksgiving has come and gone, and despite missing our extended family, our time together with our family here, reminded us once again of how very much we have to be thankful for.  God led me to a Scripture earlier this week that I'm certain I've read before, but never in light of Thanksgiving.  It talks about how as the grace of God reaches more and more people, thanksgiving will overflow to the glory of God.  One of the commentaries I read stated that with God, what begins with His grace, leads to His glory.  I love that, and it is my prayer this holiday season.  That more and more will come into His presence, saved by His grace, and that as more come, thanksgiving will overflow to the glory of God.  Isn't that what it's all about, anyway?

"All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God."
2 Corinthians 4:15



Sunday, November 18, 2012

Things only a TCK (third culture kid) would say...

Third Culture Kids:

 A unique group of people

Kids whose parents are from one culture, but are raising them in another culture so they are stuck somewhere in between - their own third culture so to speak

Being married to one of these and raising 4 of my own, I have a special love for this unique group and the way their little minds work.  

Thought you'd enjoy some of these quotes that are unique to this special group!  

"Mom, what does USA stand for?"

"Mom, I don't like those round, brown cookies you put in my lunch"  (that would be OREOS!!)

"Wait, you mean George Washington is not still president?!"

"Home DepoT" (with the "T" pronounced)

"Mom, which America is Memphis in?"

"Mom, why do people in America think that it matters if you have brown skin or black skin or white skin?"

"Mom,  I'm not white, I'm kind of peachy colored, but people call me white"

"Mom, WHAT is the SEC and WHO is Ole Miss?" (after 1 week of school in the US)

"Do you think my teacher will understand English?" (before going to school in US for 1st time)

"Mom, was that a BOMB?" (during her first Memphis thunderstorm)

"Mom, WHY do I have to get IN the toilet?"  (first Memphis tornado- someone didn't understand the tornado drill...)

"Mom, LOOK, there's a bunch of open space- just go around all these cars"  (getting up on the shoulder to avoid all the interstate traffic)

"Mom, why are you STOPPING at every red light?  We never do that in Lebanon..."

"How come there aren't taxis in Memphis and Georgia?  Does everybody drive their own car?"

"Mom, why do girls here (America) think it's good for everyone to see so much of their skin?"





Saturday, November 17, 2012

We're not cold...

(For another post on the refugees click HERE)

Winters in this part of the world are a strange phenomenon.  Truly.  And they come on so quickly!  Two weeks ago I was walking around in my house in shorts and a t-shirt, and within a matter of days the temperature has dropped just enough that we are now wearing layer upon layer, bundling up in blankets, and using flannel sheets and bed buddies to heat the sheets before climbing in.

It doesn't matter that the high for the day as far as outside temp might be in the 70s.  What matters is that low that creeps down into the 50s.  Combine that with apartments built of concrete and marble slab and NO insulation and literally within days the temperature IN your apartment is lower than the outside temperature and it's this weird kind of cold that creeps into your bones and won't go away.  Believe me when I tell you that you don't want to get behind the "cold curve" as we've started calling it.  Once you get behind, there's no catching up!

So turn on our heat, you say?  Nope!  Not that easy!  SOME apartments have split AC/heating units (not ours, although our landlord was kind enough to leave these lovely pipes sticking out of the walls in the kitchen, master bedroom and living room as a little extra incentive to have them put in ourselves- nice, huh?), however the cost of buying and then running said units is so astronomically high that very few do it.


There is also the option of "sobas".  Those are heaters that you can role around wherever you want that are powered by a propane tank and have flame burners on the front.  Ideal for a toddler, right?   They do work to heat the immediate area of about 3 feet around them in every direction but they aren't incredibly safe especially with little people running around.  Also, if you've been watching the news and have seen the protests taking place in our dear country, this is one of the issues.  The price of the propane tanks just went up from 6 JD to 10 JD (1 JD is about $1.40).  May not sound like a huge amount but considering most families buy at least 1 a week if not 2 or 3 depending on how many heating units they have, this can add up pretty quickly!

So I've been mentally gearing up for winter, and I confess whining a good bit in my head.  I'm not ready to feel achy for 3-4 months straight because I'm tense from shivering!  I'm somewhat grumpy about having to get up to a freezing cold house where I can literally see my breathe before we can get some sort of (probably not so safe!) heating option going.  I don't love the idea that we pretty much close off the front part of our house during the winter except for walking through to go out the door, because we just can't keep all that space heated.   I HATE having to put literally 4 layers of clothing on my toddler so that I can be assured that she won't wake up too cold during the night and she still wakes up with a freezing cold nose and fingers.  I am most assuredly not looking forward to another winter of ear infections, runny noses and colds because we are just not quite ever warm.  And on and on I went, whine, whine, whine, complain, complain, complain.

Until...

I glanced at the pile of clothes growing bigger and bigger in my bedroom as I have time to go through another closet or box of old clothes.  Jackets, sweaters, socks, tights.  Things we don't need, becasue we already have ENOUGH.  NO, TOO MUCH.

We've been setting these things aside to give to the Syrian refugees.  You can't live in this part of the world without being aware of the continuing conflict in Syria and the thousands upon thousands of men, women and children who have fled their homes to neighboring countries in many cases with little more than the clothes on their backs.  Many of these families fled in the summer time with summer clothes on their backs.  

And nothing else.

And now winter is upon us.

And they are cold.  I am not cold.  We are not cold.  

I have hot water.  They might not have any water.  

I have warm blankets and flannel sheets.  They MIGHT have a mattress on the floor.  

I have 4 layers that I can put on my toddler, and my worry is that she might wake up a little cold.  They might have 1 layer to put on their precious little ones and their worry is death from exposure.  

My girls have layer upon layer of fuzzy socks in fun colors that they put on and laugh while they play slip slide.  They might not have shoes.


So, no, we are not cold.  We are abundantly warm and abundantly rich in so many more ways than I can count.   I remind my girls to look at that growing pile of our excess that we have yet to give away when they begin to tell me they are cold, and I tell them to put on another layer.  Because they have it.  And there are so many who don't.  

"This is how we know what love is:  Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?   Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.  This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us.  For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.  Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.  And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.  
1 John 4:16-23

**I fear that so many in the body of Christ in the US, are unaware of the refugee crisis that is threatening so many precious people here.  We live in a part of the world that is misunderstood by so many.  And misunderstanding all too often equals fear.  Unlike Haiti or various African nations or South America, these people are not easy to access and they don't reach out welcoming arms to white faced Americans.  But that doesn't make them any less needy or any less worthy of experiencing the body of Christ in action.  You can pray and you can give.  Yes, we live here so we can't NOT be aware of the crisis happening basically on our doorstep, but I want to make you aware too!   Look into the Syrian refugee crisis and what you can do to help.  Do not let your misunderstanding of these precious people cause you to fear them or even dislike them before you have prayed for God's mercies on them.  If you want more information, contact me and I can point you in the right direction.  

Friday, November 16, 2012

19 hours

That's how long we had with Daddy between trips this week.  I'm thankful he was able to come home at all!  After being gone a week, he returned Thursday morning at 10, and headed back to the airport Friday morning at 5 AM for another 4 day trip.  We made the most of our 19 hours together!

I noticed on Wednesday that our van was doing weird things when switching gears but in the 30 minute period we were in the car in stop-and-go traffic, I honestly didn't notice, THAT much.  Well, on the way to the airport Thursday morning (30-45 minutes away and you can actually go a decent speed if there's no traffic), I realized that yeah, something was definitely wrong with the car.   Jason drove on the way home so he could see what was wrong and he knew pretty quickly that something was wrong with the clutch and/or transmission. (I have no idea what I"m talking about here....).  Not wanting to take away at all from our day, I told him not to worry about getting it fixed in the short time he's home.  The girls and I would be fine with taxis, and I would see if someone could help me get it to the shop.  Well, our van had other plans.  When we were on our street (thankfully!) about 100 yards from home, it completely gave out.  Wouldn't go a bit.  We walked the rest of the way home which Anabelle especially loved and Jason arranged to have the car towed the next day.   (funny side story- at breakfast this morning, I mentioned to Maddie that I would arrange a ride for her from band practice on Monday and to please not let me forget since the car would still be in the shop, and Naomi pipes up saying, "Mommy, I thought a toad got our car".  Stinker!)

Anyway, so Anabelle liked her walk so much with Daddy (i.e. she pitched a screaming, crying fit when we walked in our apt yelling "wak wak wak") that he took all the girls back out for a walk to the neighborhood dikan (Arabic for corner convenience store that literally has EVERYTHING you could possibly need in a space the size of some American walk in closets- it may be piled to the ceiling and require a ladder to get to, but you ask for it, they get it).  So the girls and daddy went for a walk which gave me a chance to clean up a bit from the hurricane that hit our house that morning when we all overslept and then realized Daddy's plane was arriving 30 minutes early- definitely a good thing!

My plan for this day was to not have to do TOO much in the kitchen since we were planning a family fun day which in our house involves lots of games, but we couldn't go out either due to protests and the occasional riot in the city because of fuel prices and other issues (oh the fun of living in the Middle East).   Anyway, I thawed one of my frozen crockpot meals from my recent freezer cooking attempts, and we got to smell cilantro lime chicken all day while we played.

After pita pizzas for lunch, we started with the games.  First up was spoons and then Sorry in order to include Naomi.

Next, since Anabelle essentially didn't take a nap (thank you ear infecton #984) unless you count 30 minutes in bed where I'm not entirely sure that she even slept, Naomi and Anabelle watched Max and Ruby ("Mac and ruuree" in anabellese) which Jason and I played Settlers of Catan with AJ and Maddie.  If you don't know this game you should check it out- so much fun!


Jason had a few calls he had to make so while he did that I finished throwing dinner together.  I found this recipe for homemade whole wheat tortillas.  The first time I made them for buritos for the girls and fish tacos for me (earlier this week), they were really good, but I think the whole wheat flour I used was a bit too coarse or something this time.  Although the flavor was really good, the texture was not quite right, and the shape was, well, awful.  Would still recommend the recipe, though- pretty sure my problems were due to user error.  

Anyway, while I cooked and Jason got a few things done, Maddie and Naomi crafted.   Here's a look at some of the beautiful candles Maddie and Naomi made with some glass jars I had sitting around...



Abbey and Anabelle played AB's new favorite game-"high seek"

We enjoyed our yummy Mexican feast.  I also threw together an apple cake for dessert.  I've been dieting and decided this was a cheat day and I wanted to bake for my hubby during his one day home.  Here's this amazingly yummy and quick to throw together recipe.  It's made from stuff you probably already have on hand.  

After dinner it was time for family movie night!  This can be a challenge when the movie viewers range in age from 6 to 13, but thankfully (after a somewhat LONG process), big sisters were gracious and let Naomi do most of the deciding. 

The original Parent Trap- classic.

Naomi got our movie viewing area ready with lots of blankets and pillows.  My big girls have taken after me in that they can't really sit and watch a movie without doing something else.  It drives Jason somewhat crazy that I can't just sit and watch the movie.  I either iron or cross stitch or play suduko or solitaire or SOMETHING.  Not tonight though- I was too worn out from my week of single parenting! Abbey is playng games on her iPod, Maddie is sewing and Naomi is simply enthralled with the movie.  

It was a way quick 19 hours, but much fun!  

What are some of your favorite family day activities if you are staying inside?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The problem with tomorrow...

Does God teach you through themes?  That's how He seems to work in my life. Maybe He knows I'm THAT thick headed that He has to come at me from a lot of different directions for something to sink in, but that seems to be how it typically works.  I hear something somewhere- maybe a sermon, maybe even just a casual conversation with a friend, then I read a devotion along the same lines, then I read something in the Word to confirm what I'm hearing, then I hear it again somewhere else and on and on it goes until I finally I realize, "oh! maybe I should be paying attention here..."

And by the way, just a warning, this is a processing post.  I am processing various things that God has laid on my heart and the end result may not make a lot of sense, but I'm processing and that's usually when God teaches so I'm trying to listen while I write and you're welcome to come along for the ride.  Just don't be disappointed if you get to the end and think, WHAT is she saying here?  Most likely, I'm not sure yet...

I've been thinking a lot about the concept of "today" as opposed to "tomorrow" as it relates to being a good steward of whatever thing God has entrusted me with at any given point.  Is that clear as mud?  I've had these 2 recurring themes in my mind lately and I'm seeing them beginning to converge.

First- being faithful with what God has entrusted to me.  His Word, His message, the lives of my kids.  These are BIG DEAL things.   I've been in James 4:13-17 where it talks about not knowing where we'll even be today or tomorrow (yeah, we can just a little bit relate to that- 14 something moves in 17 years of marriage...) but simply being in the Lord's will, and the verse I keep coming back to is verse 17 at the end of this chapter...

"Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins." 
James 4:17

So he goes from talking about not knowing what the future holds and therefore doing God's will by seizing the NOW and living in TODAY, to not boasting about our own plans, to reminding us that not only is DOING wrong sinful but NOT doing something right is also sinful.  Huh.  I need to unpack this a lot more, but for now I am looking at how this applies to my role as mom/wife/organizer of our home.  

Here's where the problem with tomorrow comes in, and the second theme that's been running around in my head- today vs tomorrow.    If I know of something good that I need to do TODAY, whether it be something as simple as spending 30 quality minutes of reading time with Naomi or something that takes a little more brain power like working on a story I'm memorizing in Arabic, if the Spirit leads me to do that thing NOW, TODAY, who am I to offer the excuses of my well laid plans and organizational ideas as an excuse for not doing that thing.  

In other words, if I look at my family chore chart and I see that Tuesday is my day to do the living room vacuuming and dusting myself and scrub all of the long brown hairs off of all of our area rugs (have I mentioned that all females in our house just might have to shave their heads?  Wait.  Never mind) but I feel the Spirit nudging me to spend Anabelle's nap time meditating on a scripture passage or memorizing a story or getting a craft ready for the big girls, am I going to serve my own plans and schedule and be proud of my organizational skills and check off that thing on my list or am I going to set those things aside and LISTEN to God's nudge and OBEY in that moment. 

Immediate obedience is something I'm pretty good at preaching to my kids, but I don't know how well I actually do at it! 

 I'm wondering how many opportunities I've missed because I convince myself that my plans and schedule, none of them BAD in and of themselves, are more important than the interruptions God might bring my way.  I don't want to be guilty of telling God I'll get to something TOMORROW that He has clearly shown me needs to be done TODAY.  

As someone who was in the church every time the doors were opened and then some for as far back as I can remember, I can't exactly leave this topic without referencing Matthew 25 and the parable of the talents.  Of course, those verses have been swimming around in my head too.  I want to be the servant who was "faithful with a few things" so will be "put in charge of many".  I want to be invited to "Come and share your master's happiness." (Matthew 25: 21)  

As I've meditated on these verses,  I come back over and over to the fact that God has entrusted Jason and I with our beautiful daughters and we are to be faithful in our work of discipling them and teaching them the things of Jesus.  These are the "few" things right now that He is requiring me to be faithful with.   And what precious things they are!   These precious ones SEE how I react to the curve balls life throws- the little interruptions that just might be divine appointments.  Do they see me setting aside my plans and joyfully embracing what God might bring our way each day or do they hear me whining about the inconvenience.  Ouch!  Not sure I like the answer to that!  It's so hard to be flexible in the midst of busy- ness!  Thankfully we serve a God who is endlessly patient and tirelessly teaches us from His Word.  To bad it so often takes me oh so long to hear it!  

He has faithfully reminded me this week in the midst of my thinking the job is just too big and I will most surely mess it up, that He is giving me bite sized pieces and I am to faithfully be a steward of one day at a time.  I must pray as Jesus did for my "daily" bread knowing that He is in control of my tomorrows.   How wise of Him to remind us in His Word that tomorrow is not to be worried about.  (Matthew 6) Now If I can just remember to LISTEN!  I am not at all saying tomorrow should not be planned for, just not WORRIED about- that's a big distinction for me!  

My prayer for myself each morning this week has been that I would be faithful with His message today in the lives of my kids and anyone else he brings my way, and that I would not put off until tomorrow anything that the Spirit is leading me to do TODAY.  Even if that means sacrificing my plans and my carefully orchestrated schedule.  

And mainly, AM I BEING A FAITHFUL PRAY-ER FOR MY KIDS?  Nope, not near enough.  Don't think it can ever be enough actually.  In my notes in my Bible on the James 4 passage (yes, I still use a book Bible NOT an electronic one, can't let go of my years of sermon notes and family memories scribbled in the margins!), a sermon I heard referenced 1 Samuel 12 and the fact that FAILING TO PRAY for someone could be a sin.  Lord, let that not be true for me especially in relation to my girls!  I am LISTENING for your voice and I will be ON MY KNEES when you tell me to do be!  

"As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you.  And I will teach you the way that is good and right."
I Samuel 12: 23

So much more I could ramble on about on this topic- I've only scratched the surface of what I feel God is teaching me, but I just looked at the clock which sadly says 12:30 which means that my alarm will be going off in 5 hours.  Sigh.  Yeah, and considering this morning I slept straight through said alarm and woke up to a panicked Abbey telling me we had just missed the bus and why were we all still in bed at 7:30, and then we all ran around like crazy people and got out the door 30 minutes later only to have a flat tire on the way to school and be even later because we sat at the gas station for 30 minutes while they put a straw (? not sure- my Arabic was scratchy on this one...) in the tire during which time we all sang High School Musical songs really loud and thoroughly enjoyed the fact that we were completely mortifying 13 year old Abbey and I reveled in the new discovery that I am now VERY capable of THOROUGHLY embarrassing my eldest.... whew. (are you as tired from reading that sentence as I am from writing it?  that was the point...)

Learning to live in the moment... be careful what you pray for!

"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.  And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.  Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.  Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the msot of every opportunity.  Let your conversation always be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." 
Colossians 4: 2-6  



Monday, November 12, 2012

18 months and the promised video, well sort of...


Can I just tell you that our lives are NEVER dull?  They may be a lot of things, but dull or boring- nuh uh!  Miss Anabelle has definitely added her own brand of excitement for the last 18 months!  And I have to say it because she's my last- has it REALLY been 18 months?!  Wow!  I'm remembering how much fun and unique each stage is, and I really do want to treasure each one.  Even since I wrote the chatterbox post a month or so ago, her vocabulary has picked up so much.  She literally does not stop talking.  Most of it is unintelligible toddler jabber, but she does throw in a good many words and phrases too.  

So indulge this somewhat haphazard version of a milestone post (I'm not so good at the organized diaper size, clothes size, sleep pattern post...) knowing that it's especially for my memory and her family back in the states.   And I haven't forgotten that in another post, I promised a video of Anabelle singing, "Jesus".  Well people, don't think that's going to happen!  The day after I said that I started trying to get a video.  She really does sing this all the time to random baby dolls, stuffed animals.  Usually we encourage it a bit and she picks up the last word of phrases, but I promise she sings.  

At least she did until I started trying to video it..

Now she shakes her head emphatically and says, "no, no, no" or else climbs in my lap while I'm trying to video so she can "see" the picture of herself, which doesn't exactly make filming her easy!

We've rediscovered the playmobile stuff in the last few weeks and I've let Naomi leave the house set up on the little table in her room.  Anabelle has LOVED playing with it.  We have to watch her closely because there are little pieces, but she is going to be like her oldest sister in that she seems to like things very orderly, so (unless she gets frustrated as you'll see in one video), things pretty well stay in place...
This first video is also one of our many failed attempts to get her to sing
video

I love this one because it shows her just jabbering away....  and also a bit of her temper at the end
video

And one more attempt at singing...

video

Like I said, not very good at the milestone post- I figure I'm doing good to get a picture or 2 up every few months and say something about how I can't believe how much time has passed.  Because I can't.  And then again I can.  Know what?  I held a precious little newborn this past week and I really think it was the first time in FOREVER that I've held a baby (after my current baby is more than a year old) and haven't had the thought that I want another.  Huh.  Anyway, back to my baby.  

In summary, AB is our little peanut.  First time I've ever had a baby low on the growth charts.  She's about 25% for weight and maybe 40% for height, but I promise what she may be lacking at this point in size, she more than makes up for in overflowing personality.  So expressive this one!  But how could she not be with a house full of girls to learn from?!  

And speaking of girls- she ADORES her big sisters- Abbey, Mami, and Nomi can do no wrong in her little mind!  Looks like she's thinking WHAT exactly is happening now?!
(and I'm truly not sure what WAS happening but it sure was fun!)

If I were to ask you to pray for anything for Anabelle it would be sleep for sure.  The amazing babywise baby who started sleeping through the night at 6 weeks and was truly the EASIEST baby EVER for the first 8 months of her life had a little bump in the road as far as sleep starting last January in the form of ear infections and has never completely gotten her sleep groove back.  We're working on it though.  

We had a good spell this summer (thankfully! since we traveled so much) but got back to Jordan and started having trouble again in September.  She has not had another infection but has constant fluid on her ears so please pray this will resolve itself.  We've had about 4 good nights in a row so I'm thankful for that and hoping it will continue.  She naps very well during the day so that helps.  We just in the last month moved from 2 naps to 1 nap and most days she'll sleep for 2.5-3 hours.  Works out well and gives me a few hours just before the big girls get home and things wind up again.  

She is definitely an extrovert.  We had house group at our home on Friday and everyone was hanging out in the kitchen and she comes walking in and says, "HEWO!" then grins really big as everyone laughs at her.  Little mess.  

Favorite activities these days?  Well I mentioned the playmobile house, she also LOVES playing with Naomi's collection of Toy Story toys ("tato", Woowy, and Jessie are favorites- oh and Boos Eye and Buzz I Ear- ok she likes them all!), loves playing hide-n-seek with the big girls and LOVES "Bob and Wary".  Veggie Tales remains a favorite in our house!   Oh, and I can't forgot books.  I love how much Anabelle loves to read both to herself and being read to.  She will sit for the longest time in front of her bookshelf pulling out books and flipping through the pages usually with a running commentary of jabber.  Her favorites are Goodnight Moon ("nigh, nigh, hush"), Wheels on the Bus, anything Maisy, most any Sandra Boynton but specifically Barnyard Dance, and Brown Bear (which she can practically recite at least which animal is coming next)

I mentioned hide-n-seek.  She'll cover her eyes and "count" to 10 and then come looking.  Whoever happens to be found has to have a "tiss" and gets lots of hugs.  Then when it's her turn to hide she runs about 3 feet away and flattens herself against the wall until you open your eyes from counting.  Then she says, "Oh!  There she is, Anabelle!".  

Oh, that's another thing.  She says her name emphatically and loudly whenever she's doing something she knows she shouldn't.  Like climbing on the table (yep, she figured that one out this week), or throwing something in the trash, or picking up someone's electronic device or a remote.  Anyway, it's pretty cute and quite helpful at this stage if my eyes happened to be diverted elsewhere for that nanosecond.  Occasionally she'll even throw in a "no, no!", but usually it's just "Anabelle!".  

Here's a picture sequence of another favorite thing...

Notice the brooms in the middle of the floor and where Mia is...

Miss Anabelle loves to raid the pantry in search of cheerios!

So she cleans out the "broom closet" in order to indulge in her mid-morning snack...

In the process of playing playmobile this week and trying to get a video 58 times, Abbey noticed that she was sticking Playmobile people under her chin to walk around the table and move them from place to place...


At one point she had about 3 people and that big rocking chair (above) under her chin!

Helpful to keep her hands free in order to climb on things, I guess!
Quite innovative, this one!

Happy 18 month birthday, Anabelle!  
We love you!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Freezer cooking


So a few weeks ago I posted about my new stand alone freezer and my first attempts at freezer cooking.          So far, so good!  I've been so pleased with everything I've tried.  Jury's still out on how it's helping our budget but that's an issue for another day..  Wanted to share what I've tried, what I like, and how I'm making it work for us.

First, I'll say, that I don't think I'm going to do the whole cook one day for a whole month deal.  The logistics of buying that many groceries at once are challenging here, plus the likelihood of me having an entire day free and then desiring to spend said day in the kitchen are is very, VERY slim...

So.  I've been trying to figure out ways to work freezer cooking into our already busy schedule.  We have entered that crazy phase of life with the ages of our girls and the activities they're involved in- even overseas and with limiting them to one extracurricular.  It makes for some crazy afternoons with band pick-up, basketball practice, ballet class etc.  I want to have healthy meals for our family and not find myself at 5 o'clock wondering what in the world I'm going to cook.  So what seems to be working for me is doing a little here, a little there and gradually building up our stock of healthy food on hand.

Breakfast is a biggie for me as far as desiring to simplify.  And don't tell me to buy cereal.  It is CRAZY expensive here.  I will buy it occasionally but I try to have something hot for most days even if it's just scrambled eggs and toast.  I love these spinach/egg cups and they freeze well and are quick to throw together.  I'm trying to get in the habit of throwing together something like this while I'm in the process of fixing dinner.  Or if I bake something like muffins of some sort or a loaf bread for breakfast (I usually do that also while fixing dinner or sometimes right after the girls go to bed before I collapse for the night), I am doubling the recipe to put at least one portion in the freezer.  When fresh fruit is in season (like peaches or strawberries)- we live in a place where you usually can't get something if it's not in season, then I buy A LOT and freeze it in quart size ziploc bags and use it for smoothies.

Some other things I've started freezing that I'm hoping will both simplify the cooking process and help the budget:

  • buy kilo bags of dried beans (I do red, black and white)and cook all at once and freeze in 2 cup portions- overall much cheaper than canned and better for you!
  • cook whole pumpkin (I use Pioneer Woman's tips here) and freeze in 1 3/4 cup portion (same amount as canned)
  • cook 2-3 whole chickens overnight in the crockpot, then shred and freeze in 2 cup portions- great for casseroles, chicken salad etc
  • haven't done it yet but I'm looking for good whole wheat pizza crust and bread recipes to freeze
  • this is my new fave pie crust recipe.  I followed one reader's suggestion and make 3 crusts out of it instead of 4, so I have at least 1 to freeze for later, sometimes 2
  • soup, soup, soup!!  We love soup in the fall/winter because it's yummy and because it's budget friendly.   Check out my cooking blog here for some favorites like chicken tortilla soup (SO easy!), and corn and zucchini queso chowder to name a few
Moving on to crockpot freezer cooking.  I have found several websites that have kind of become my "go to" on this topic, but they are basically the same idea.  You prepare your ingredients and freeze and gallon size ziploc bags and put in the crockpot the day of.  Some have additional instructions like adding broth or additional seasonings or garnishes right before serving.  I ordered this ecookbook from the mama and baby love website for $9.99 and it has been fabulous.  So far every recipe I've tried has been great.  She uses all fresh ingredients which I love.  Ironically, she has a disclaimer at the beginning that you need to be prepared to spend a little more money on fresh ingredients but here overseas the fresh produce is actually less expensive than all the processed stuff- score!  Her recipes do have A LOT of meat (at least in my opinion).  I have reduced the amount of meat in most of the things I've done and have had great results.  

Here are some of the other websites I've come across that have had some great tips and recipes:

Super helpful blog!  She goes through and gives step by step for getting several meals in the freezer at once.  She groups meals together that can be done in about 2 hours tops.  Today I prepped cilantro lime chicken (from this blog), thai chicken (from mama and baby love above), and made moroccan chicken stew (my recipe that I'll share eventually) all in the first hour of Anabelle's nap.  

I love this resource!  It's a long list of all different types of freezer meals.  Haven't tried much but I think it will be a great resource!

Here is another great resource.  I've found that a lot of these blogs link together and have similar ideas especially as far as the crockpot meals.  Seems you can kind of interchange ingredients to suit your own tastes.  

I've had fun exploring this topic and I hope I'll be able to share more ideas with you!  Would love to hear from anyone who has more tips on this topic!  

Monday, November 5, 2012

Kings and kingdoms will all pass away

That's a throwback, right?  Or maybe you've never even heard the song!  It IS a song (the title of the post I mean), but I guess I'm showing my age here!  It's Gloria Gaither and the funny thing is, it is NOT at all the kind of music that we listen to in our house.  However it's a song that Jason has sung to every one of our sweet girls as babies.  If you've never heard my man sing, well, you're missing out.  He can make even the cheesiest 70's gospel song sound amazing.  He holds them tight and sings right up in their little ears and it soothes and comforts like nothing else.

So this song is special to us.  Has been for 13 years now.  It's not a song we sing at any other moment except in our baby's nurseries at bedtime or naptime.  Not that there's anything wrong with the song.  The lyrics are actually pretty amazingly perfect.  It's just not exactly mainstream these days as far as praise and worship music goes!  Click here if you want to listen...

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
There's just something about that name
Master, Saviour, Jesus
Like the fragrance after the rain
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
Let all heaven and earth proclaim
Kings and kingdoms will all pass away
But there's something about that name.

Anyway, I do have a point here.  I realized the other day when putting Miss Anabelle down for her nap and singing this song that I left this little jewel out of my IVF journey posts.  (I linked to part 4 because that's where this would fall chronologically).  It was in the spring of 2010 after yet another IVF attempt had not worked and it was, well, difficult to say the least.  Jason and I traveled to a meeting that spring, and I had the blessing of spending an evening with some wonderful ladies who knew of our journey and took some time to pray for Jason and I and our hopefully growing family.  At the end of this prayer time, one of these sweet ladies began singing.  And do you know that with absolutely no prompting from me and no knowledge at all that this had been and would continue to be our "baby song" she began singing this precious song.  Be still my heart and let the tears fall!  Everyone joined in and after praying for God to give us the baby we desired, my sweet sisters lifted these words up to Him together.  This was just one more precious nugget from the Lord, that we were continue to press on in the journey.  

I guess you can see why it makes me tear up when I pick Anabelle up for naptime and she says, "Jesus, Jesus" because she loves to sing this song too.  She sings it to her babies also, and let me tell you, it's about the most precious thing on the planet.  Video to come soon...

I also couldn't help but think that it's a pretty timely reminder for me, with the elections tomorrow, that kings and kingdoms do pass away, and while it is important to cast my vote and play my part in that way, it is much more important for me to remember in my day to day life who the true King is and that my ultimate goal should be seeking to give Him glory and make His name known.  

"As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.  But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children-- with those who keep his covenant, and remember to obey his precepts.  The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.  Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word.  Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will.  Praise the Lord, all his works, everywhere in his dominion.  Prasie the Lord, O my soul. " 
Psalm 103: 15-22

"May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.  May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you.  May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth.  May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you.  Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us.  God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear him."
Psalm 67

One final thing...  I mentioned to the girls when we were eating lunch today that tomorrow is elections in America so we should be praying.  Naomi responded much more enthusiastically than I would have expected saying,  "REALLY, we're getting a new president?!  You mean it's not going to be George Washington anymore?!"  

Playmobile!



With the busiest shopping time of the year approaching, I thought I'd do a plug for some of my all time favorite toys.  You wouldn't think that apartment living with 4 girls would equal me liking toys that if a bazillion little pieces but I absolutely love Playmobile sets.  They are truly fabulous.

We first discovered Playmobile almost 10 years ago when we lived in France.  There was a little suburb of Paris that had a massive Playmobile warehouse type place.  (picture the inside of Sams or Costco).  Every playmobile set in existence was set up around the perimeter with big bins of all the pieces and you could go in and let the kids play for as long as you wanted.  Of course the catch was that going in and out, you walked through the retail store with your kids who had just played with all of these amazing toys.  They had an area with refreshments for the parents to sit while the kids played and played with these super cool toys.  Pretty cook sales gimmick if you ask me.  Anyway, that Christmas we started our playmobile collection with the grocery store.  SUCH a cool toy (see pictures below).  The great part is that all the sets mix and match.  You can get the bigger dollhouse or grocery store type sets or smaller ones- ice cream parlor, beauty shop etc.  There's a ton of them really.  I know nothing about all the boy ones but I"m sure they are just as awesome as all the princess, fairy sets.

Naomi rediscovered our Playmobile house the other day and had so much fun setting it up and arranging everything just so.  Aren't all the details fun?  Down to the bottles of laundry detergent on the washing machine!



She's even got the mailman putting mail in the mailbox and if you look closely, you can see the Dad sitting in his recliner by the TV...

This has provided hours of playtime for at least 3 days in a row now- and she is only playing with one of our sets!


Not pictured are our fairy sets, princess sets (although she did use some of the princess pieces in the house), animal sets and grocery store.

Here is a post I did a few years ago that pictures more of the toys along with some of our other favorite things.  And even with a toddler in the house, I just can't say enough good things about these toys! 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Grrr....

I've had one of those cultural days where I've just been plain grumpy and it seems like the more grumpy I am, the more stuff stops working...  hmmm..  

(not gonna analyze that because it will probably make me come to the realization that I need to CHOOSE joy even when I don't FEEL joy, and well, I'm kind of in the middle of choosing to be grumpy today, thank you very much...)

So anyway.  Can I vent?  Just a little I promise.  

First of all, I get that when you are a king of a country you can kind of do what you want.  But can I just say that you can't choose to not observe daylight savings time when you are already ON daylight savings time.  You have to first get OFF of it and then not get back ON it in the spring.  Good grief.  My brain cannot function at the capacity that will help me figure out what this means for our light hours in the coming months (let's just say that Jason and I had about a 10 minute discussion about what time we should set our alarms for when we were at a meeting last week in a country that was falling back and at the end of the discussion I was so totally and utterly confused that I couldn't think straight- thank goodness for phones that reset themselves...).  Anyway,  I know that somehow not going off of daylight savings time is going to mess something up and therefore it is making me grumpy.  It's also making me grumpy because it's making my husband grumpy.  Something about all the electronic devices he has not syncing properly now- this calendar doesn't match that calendar and this iPad doesn't match that iPhone.  Whatever.  All I know is he sat in front of his computer forever last night because he had a skype call with people in 3 different countries and he originally thought it was at 9.  Then he thought it was at 8.  Nope, then he thought 9 again.  Wrong again!  It was at 10...  See the rest of the world is falling back and all of our iWhatevers think that we are too, therefore they are changing times that don't need to be changed all because the king said so!  

Moving on...

Thing #2 that I am grumpy about...  And let me preface this one by saying that this is one of those "pot meet kettle" moments that we all face (usually as parents I think).   I mean how many times have I said to my kids, "life is NOT fair and not only that but I am not TRYING to be fair"...   The funny thing is, I have a pretty intense sense of fairness and things just being RIGHT.  Possibly why I get so incredibly annoyed by the complete lack of observance of lines over here.  That, after all, is not fair.  Anyway, back to thing #2. 

Electricity bills.

We live in a place where electricity is VERY expensive.  And randomly so.  Which is why we hold our breaths every month before the bill comes.  The hard part is that there seems to be no rhyme or reason to it.  At least some of the time.  Thankfully we are in the less expensive time of the year as far as electricity goes.  It's still warm enough to hang out the clothes so I don't use the dryer.  It's warm enough that we don't have to run any heaters which really sends it soaring.   The last few months we've been coasting with our electricity bill- very doable.  Which is a good thing because we are needing to save for the incredibly expensive winter electricity bills.  So yesterday when we got our bill and it was 3X what it was last month and we have done NOTHING different, well, let's just say it wasn't pretty.  So Jason headed downstairs to talk to our landlord to see if he could figure out what in the world had happened.   Our landlord explained how electricity is priced based on usage.  Let me break it down for you.  Hypothetically if you use between 0-100 (watts? volts?  whatever...) it's a certain low price, if you use 101- 300ish it's a bit more, if you use 301-600ish a bit more all the way up through if you go over 1000 then the price per watt/volt/whatever random unit it is almost triples.   So.  Here's what happened.  Since the last week of the month (when they usually come and read the meter) was during a major holiday here, they didn't come and read the meter until a week later, therefore making this pay period over 5 weeks instead of the usual 4.  SOOO, we went over the 1000 mark (BECAUSE THEY WAITED TO READ THE METER!!!) thus almost tripling our bill.  

NOT FAIR!  NOT FAIR!  NOT FAIR!  

(and in case you are wondering, NO!!!  There is no such thing as customer service here therefore no one I can call and express my "it's not fair" feelings to, and I'm pretty sure if there was such a line to call whoever I talked to would respond very nicely, "it's not a problem.  don't worry, don't worry." and then do NOTHING...)

Thing #3 that I'm grumpy about.  My house is out to get me!  I'm convinced.  And it is all this country's fault.  (simply because I need someone to blame that is NOT my husband for the sanity of my family, because let me assure you there have been far too many times that I have blamed my sweet man  because I need a scapegoat)  Not gonna do that this time.  I'm totally blaming Jordan.  How, you may ask, is it Jordan's fault that my stove lighting mechanism AND my washing machine AND our water pump that pumps water to the tank on our roof thus providing water to our home all stopped working TODAY?  Well, it just is.  It is Jordan's fault because all of those things are HERE in the country of Jordan.  Along with no daylight savings time and stupid electricity bills.   And you would be wise not to judge the sanity of such a statement as my husband just did or I might just shift the blame!  I'm pretty sure he was fairly close to launching into a logical explanation as to WHY it could NOT be Jordan's fault that the stove we bought 8 years ago in Lebanon would stop working today.  He changed his mind.  He knows there are times that logic and I don't get along...

So, I'll end with this.  There are plenty of things that I'm currently grumpy about in regards to my current country of residence.  However, I've decided I'm forgiving the good kingdom of Jordan.  


Because of this...
They are bringing me an IKEA....

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A special gift

I love, love, love autumn.  Actually, I love all the changing seasons and their reflection of God's creativity, but I especially love the beauty of the fall colors.  Living where we do, it is not something we get to see very often. Well, ever...  

We do have seasons as far as temperature goes.  Summer is HOT (but thankfully not humid) and winter is oh. so. cold.  I can honestly say that I don't think I've ever been as cold in my life as I was last winter.  The outside temperature never gets much below freezing but the cold gets locked into the buildings early on and just seems to crawl under your skin and stay there!  So, anyway, we have seasons as far as temperature but that's about as far as it goes.  

Don't get me wrong, Jordan has a beauty all it's own that we are truly learning to love.  Mostly I love that when I look at the rocky hillsides and rugged beauty of the desert, I can picture the wandering Isrealites or Jesus sitting on the hillside preaching.  It's a very unique beauty.  Sometime you have to look a little harder to see it, but it's definitely there.  It's more of a rugged beauty, really.  

Jason and I had the chance this past week to travel together to a meeting in Austria.  We knew going in that there would be no time to sight see or really do much besides travel in to our meeting sight (a 3 hour drive from Vienna) and travel back to the airport at the end.   Thankfully though, the beauty of this place, was nothing that you had to strain to see.   When God made this little section of the universe, He held nothing back!   We considered it such a gift to be able to see the amazing fall colors and the beauty of the first snowfall in this enchanting little village all in one week.  Forgive my less than awesome photography skills and try to picture the beauty we saw!  

Our village was nestled in the rolling hills and the first snow was so beautiful.  I really don't know that I've ever seen the combination of snow and autumn leaves before.  So beautiful and such the refreshment that my soul needed!


This is the main street in the village where we stayed.  

Some of the village homes off the main street...


(is that picture perfect or what?!)

The sun didn't come out until our last day when we drove back to the airport but it made the drive spectacular.   And I know, for many of you, autumn leaves are something that you have the joy of seeing, well, every year, but take it from someone who can't open the back door to catch a glimpse of this type of color display, don't take it for granted!









the perfect picnic spot...

...with a castle in the background

I marveled all week at God's creativity.  From Jordan with it's brownish desert beauty that takes a bit more effort to "see" to the breathtaking rolling hills of Austria.  What an amazing God we serve!