A Christmas Love Story

Once upon a time in October, a boy and a girl moved to a foreign country with their two small babies and a handful of earthly possessions.

They lived in a borrowed apartment while they were learning to speak the language and navigate daily life.

As Christmas approached, the girl was homesick and sad that she did not have her own Christmas decorations and a Christmas tree to put up.

The boy loved the girl, and it made him sad that she was sad. So he did the only thing he could think of. He got her a tree. (And she liked big trees.)

He left the superstore with the giant boxed up Christmas tree. He waited patiently for the correct city bus to arrive (they had learned which bus to take in their two months abroad, thank goodness). Then, he heaved his cumbersome load up the bus steps and waited nonchalantly with the other passengers.

The bus driver was curious about his foreign guest and motioned to the box and asked what the boy was doing.

The boy knew his bus routes but didn’t have such a solid grasp on the language yet, so he wasn’t sure exactly what the bus driver was asking, but figured it had to do with the awkward box he was transporting around town. So he shrugged and said, “My wife.”

And the bus driver nodded knowingly and pulled away from the stop.

The girl was so happy when the boy presented her the tree. She was still homesick and she still didn’t know how to order at Burger King, but she knew there was no one else she would rather celebrate Christmas far away from home with.

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In Jesus’ Name

Yesterday, I saw this post in my Facebook news feed from an expat who lives in my city in Turkey:

“Just read an update from a friend that said that they offered a blanket to a refugee in the name of Jesus. The man said, ‘Who is this Jesus? Since I left home he has given me food, a place to stay and now a blanket. I want to know him.’ “

I came back several times to read the post and each time tears flooded my eyes.

As refugees began filling our city this year, I was burdened for their IMG_0805desperate conditions and never knew what I could really do to help. Often when I saw a refugee mom and her children on the street, I would duck into a market and fill a bag with milk boxes, bottles of water, apples, and crackers or cookies and then hand them over with a simple blessing in the name of Jesus. I began keeping food bags in the van, so I could hand them out the window whenever we encountered a refugee family at a stoplight. It never felt like much. It felt like a drop in a bathtub– how could I ever make a real difference when all I had was a few apples and boxes of milk to offer?

IMG_0751The post on my news feed yesterday reminded me that I never know the whole story. I am just a small part of the story God is weaving into the fabric of someone else’s life. My crackers and bottled water don’t feel like much, but when I offer them in obedience in Jesus’ name, He multiplies and provides. (See John 6:1-14 where Jesus uses a little boy’s offering of five barley loaves and two fish to feed five thousand people!)

We buy into the lie that we have to do big, awesome, life-changing things for God for it to “count”. It’s true, He wants our big yeses. He desires our obedience when He calls us to big steps– changing jobs, starting a new church, becoming foster parents, sharing the good news with a co-worker, moving to a new city, joining full-time ministry. But God wants more than our big flashy yeses.

He wants our tiny daily yeses. He wants us to pull over and help change that flat tire. He wants us to give food bags in Jesus’ name. He wants us to offer to host dinner even though our furniture is threadbare and our curtains are hand-me-downs. He wants us to pick up the tab. He wants us to smile at the tired barista at Starbucks. He wants us to deliver dinner to the sick family and greet the unfamiliar face in our pew. He wants us to cry with the hurting soul. All our little yeses are different because we are different. Your gifts and location and abilities and relationships are different than mine. But when we each put our YES on Jesus’ table each day, He gathers them all together and builds a beautiful Kingdom for His glory.

And what a magical Kingdom He builds with those yeses! It’s small IMG_0748enough to fit in the palm of a child’s hand. (Matthew 19:13-14) It’s as unruly as a garden plant that grows wherever it is. (Mark 4:30-32) It belongs to the poor in spirit. (Matthew 5:3) It’s as lavish as a wedding banquet. (Matthew 22:2) It’s as easy as loving God and people. (Mark 12:29-34) It’s as valuable as buried treasure. (Matthew 13:44) It’s not of this world (John 18:36) and yet, it’s in our midst. (Luke 17:21)

His Kingdom is at hand. (Matthew 4:17)

 

 

Summa

We haven’t officially hit that day of Summer Solstice, but can we all agree, it’s summer?

School is out, the temps have soared and I remember, yet again, that I just don’t like summer. You can keep your Pinterest-pinned summer bucket lists, and your pool memberships, and your tanned legs. I’ll even give up my iced coffee. I just want some moderate fall or spring weather. Please.

We live in the land of no central a/c which means that you get hot and stay hot during June, July and August. Body odor reigns supreme on stifling buses and metros as you go about your daily business (I try to keep my business inside during the daylight hours for this reason!). You just have to go ahead and remind yourself that you’re gonna sweat. And sweat. And sweat. It’s two (sometimes three) shower a day kinda weather.

I had this romantic notion that if we could find an accessible outdoor pool to spend some time enjoying, summer would feel better. I grew up in a club pool each summer– days spent chasing and swimming and snacking and falling into bed exhausted each night. I heard of one that was supposedly close by and we took off Tuesday to try and locate it. We should probably have gotten the hint when the GPS had no clue where we were trying to send it, but we pressed on. Off the highway, through some villages, over the bumpy faux roads, and past the groves of olive trees. And then we found it!

And the pool/water park is closed for renovations until further notice. Hmmmm. Why didn’t they renovate during the winter, you ask?

What a logical thought. (One I entertained myself even).

And then I remember that we live overseas. And it’s not always logical.

So, we inflated the balcony kiddie pool left over from last summer that has a gimpy side, and threw some popsicles at the kids, and called it a fun summer day.

What have you been up to this summer?

::2013::

I realize it’s not a novel idea to choose a word as a theme for the new year, but I never claimed to be novel anyway.

As we move forward in our adoption process (please, Lord, let our daughter come home this year!), as we live between our two homes (January through June in America and June through December in Turkey), and as I continue to seek the Lord in my roles as wife, mother, and cross-cultural worker, I have chosen FAITH to be my word for 2013.

The verse that keeps coming to mind and heart on the topic of faith is Hebrews 11:6, ” And without faith, it is impossible to please God…”

I feel so lost in my own life sometimes:

  • Adoption is slow and each step brings up 1,000 more questions. We don’t know where the money will come from and can’t fund raise like others do.
  • Living between two continents is hard. We know this is what God has called us to, but we’re always saying goodbye to someone and we’re always missing one home while we enjoy the other.
  • I am still so unsure about day-to-day parenting as new issues and conflicts arise every day, and I constantly feel like I could be doing more to keep our home and serve my family.
  • Pssssst… I could go on, but I’ll stop here since these are the “biggies”.

From the beginning of 2013, looking ahead, I need faith because I want to please God in all these areas. So I’m asking God to work in my heart and grow my faith this year. And I don’t want it to be quiet, unmeasurable faith. I want to have the kind of active faith James writes about in his second chapter:

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Do you have a word for 2013? Where do you hope to grow and learn this year?

::Link Love::

{The Secret Sterlization of Women in Uzbekistan}

          Absolutely heart-wrenching. It’s so easy if you live in the West to pretend the whole world is OK and atrocities against humans don’t happen anymore… not true. Eye opening article. 


          Love this. Want to seek to be more of a “loser” in my marriage.

          Yes. Need to work on this…

          Again, yes. I need to work on this…

          Most days it feels like an uphill battle to disengage my parenting from “culture” and try to be biblical in the way I teach and relate to my children. It’s good to remember my goal is not for the world to think I am a good parent (whatever that means to them!) but to point my children to Christ.

          This.is.so.me. Just letting go and playing with my children (not directing their play or encouraging their independent play) is SO hard for me.

          Such a good reminder why the “little things” are actually big things that matter very much!
          If you live overseas, this is a great read! Ten years from now when I look at my life now, I will probably not remember all the little things that got under my skin and irritated me about living overseas– I will remember the good things, the fun things, the memorable things.


{Why the City is a wonderful Place to Raise Children
Such encouragement for those of us seeking to raise kids in big cities!



me + 3

in the elevator, heading out tonight

Some wise mama told me when I was pregnant with Stinkbug (baby #2) that it would take about six months for life to feel “normal”. So true. At six months postpartum, new life seemed to enter my body because I knew what I was doing and I had the energy to do it. (Kinda.)

And after Doodlebug (baby #3), I found it to be true again… as we entered the sixth month, life just started rolling… life with three kids was “normal”. (Well, you know, if your kind of normal is saying things like “No, we don’t put our hands in the toilet.”)

And thinking back to after Ladybug (baby #1), I think it probably took about six months to get into a rhythm. Actually, I’m completely positive it did. Because at six months, she started napping more consistently, and we had entered our own groove of being mommy/baby.

So, I will go ahead and say that it takes about six months after you have a baby (whether it’s #1, #2, #3…) for life to start feeling normal. So, if you’re a sleep-deprived, un-showered, puddle of postpartum-ness, take heart– and give yourself some time and some grace.

{And yes, I took all three kids out tonight. We walked to Burger King and had ice cream cones, and then we walked over to the super nice, new playground to exert some energy. And I felt great having three kids out by myself, hence the life-feels-normal-after-six-months-postpartum thoughts!

And another thought? I love living in a walkable place! I feel like I missed so much life when I lived in America because I drove everywhere.}

Pregnancy Overseas

All of my pregnancy with Bug#3 has taken place overseas which means that some of the medical care has been a little different from my previous experiences.  If I’m completely honest, I miss Sonic, Cook Out, and Chick Fil A for my pregnancy cravings, and I am slightly anxious about delivering a baby in a place other than America.  I want to remain positive, so here are some of my favorite things about being pregnant overseas:

  • Getting weighed in kilograms. Divide my weight in pounds in half and call it my weight?  Sign me up!
  • Not gaining much weight. Between the fact that I don’t have many “craving fulfill-ers” here, and the fact that I walk almost anywhere I need to go, I haven’t put on very much weight at all.  That makes for a happy momma!
  • An ultrasound at every appointment. We have seen Bug#3 every time we’ve been to the doctor.  They don’t use a doppler to check the heartbeat, they just look at the baby each time to check everything out.  It’s kinda fun!
  • Being treated as a special patient. Today I had my one hour glucose test.  My doctor called when I was back home to let me know the results were normal.  Are you serious? In America, I was told “If you don’t hear from us, that means your results are fine.” We also rarely have to wait before the appointments.  It’s the little things that make you feel like a special patient!  Maybe it’s because I’m a foreigner and I pay cash, but for whatever reason, it’s nice!
  • I have never seen a cleaner bathroom than the one at my doctor’s office. Seriously, I would consider eating off the floor in there.  It looks like the place is scrubbed down after each person visits the restroom!  (Again– the little things!)
  • Keeping the gender a mystery. This has nothing to do with being pregnant overseas (we could find out if we wished to), but I’m having a great time with the gender mystery.  I almost felt like caving today, but I really look forward to finding out BOY or GIRL on Bug#3’s birthday!

I read a birth-abroad-story this weekend that made me feel even more nervous than I already was!  (Especially since I will be having a scheduled C-section, since both my other babies were born by section!)  I am praying that the Lord would comfort my heart and prepare me for Bug#3’s arrival– however He appoints that to happen!  Hence, the “positive thoughts”!  If you have a great birth-abroad-story, I’d love to read it!

Chips & Salsa!

It’s been almost eight months since I’ve lived in America, and there are a few things I miss. If you’ve ever traveled overseas (even for a short time), you know what I mean. There is this hankering (Truly, did I just sound like a redneck?) that arises for those certain delicacies– a Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich, sweet tea, southern fried chicken– can you guess where my roots are?

I am blessed to live in a modern city, and a lot of “comfort” items are findable– I can buy Dove Shampoo and Neutrogena face wash at my grocery store. I have been lucky enough to happen upon M&Ms and my hubby has been overjoyed to find Dr Pepper on more than one occasion.

However most “convenient foods” that are available in the US, are not to be found here. I don’t generally mind, because cooking with fresh ingredients and making things from scratch means my family is eating better, and we will benefit in the long run from not having those things at hand. It’s more work and more time invested. But I guarantee I’ll enjoy these homemade chips and homemade salsa more than I’ve ever enjoyed them at my local Mexican restaurant in the States!

Seriously, don’t you wish you were invited to dinner?

Homemade Tortilla Chips and Salsa

Salsa

  • 4 tomatoes (or 1 can tomatoes), whirred in a blender or food processor (I don’t process mine long since I like chunky salsa!)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 small cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cilantro
  • dash of black pepper
  • 2 or 3 teaspoons jalapeno peppers, chopped

Mix everything together.  Refrigerate for a few hours to let all the flavors blend.  Enjoy!

Tortilla Chips (from Food Network Kitchens)

  • twelve small tortillas
  • olive oil
  • fine salt

Preheat oven to 350*F, or 180*C.  Brush both sides of tortillas with oil.  Stack tortillas and cut the pile into sixths with a pizza cutter.  Spread the chips in a single layer on a baking sheet (they won’t all fit the first go ’round!), and sprinkle with salt.  Bake until golden brown and crisp (12-15 minutes), rotating the baking sheet halfway through the time.

Enjoy!

Highlights & Lowlights

I got a new lens for my birthday.  I am in love with my 35mm f/1.8.

Hubby brought me flowers last week for no reason.  I really like that guy.

We are mastering the art of making our own popsicles.  Summer is magical.

I have also perfected the at-home-Cook-Out-milkshake.  These happen when the kids are asleep.  Bliss in a cup.

Life is good.

But sometimes it’s hard too.  We had friends come and visit, and it was sad to put them back on an airplane to the States.  Language learning can be tough for a momma with young’uns, I have had some discouraging days with our new language lately.  I constantly crave foods from America and am not able to satisfy my cravings this pregnancy like I have before (although my barely growing numbers on the scale are quite pleasant to look at…)

Overall I’d say the good outweighs the bad.  And the glass is certainly half full.  (Of sweet tea.)

I miss Wal-mart!

It was not quite a year ago when I recounted for you what it was like to get my two under two to Wal-mart for groceries.  Now that we live 1/2 a world away from Wal-mart, I thought I would let you know what it’s like to go to the “big” grocery store these days.

{deep breath}

1. Get the kids’ bag ready with diapers wipes, sippys, snacks, extra underwear, Germ-X, etc.

2. Make sure I have my keys, wallet, cell phone.

3. Get everyone’s shoes and jackets on.

4. Carry the stroller downstairs.

5. Strap Stinkbug into the Ergo.

6. a. Call a Taxi (explain in a foreign language where I want the Taxi to pick me up)

or

b. Walk about seven minutes up to the main road and wait on a bus or mini-bus. (Note: I haven’t actually taken both kids on a bus by myself yet– I’m just not that brave.)

6. Get all our belongings out of taxi and pay taxi driver.

7. Head straight to Starbucks and buy a drink.

8. Get kids situated in cart.  (Not always easy.)

9. Maneuver cart.  (Much harder than you would think– the wheels are able to head in any direction.  They don’t just go straight like in the States.)

10. Get cart full of groceries while checking list, feeding kids snack, and hurrying.

11.  Endure a fit from Ladybug.  Or three.

12. Check out and bag my own groceries.

13. Pay.  (Not always easy if they ask me a question– why can’t the whole world speak English?)

14. Head to the elevator to get to the third floor with the cart and the kids to eat lunch.

15. Ask Ladybug if she needs to use the potty.  (She says no.)

16. Proceed to food court.

17. Ladybug announces she has to potty.  Backtrack to the potty by the elevator.

18.  Push the entire cart into the handicapped restroom so Ladybug can pee.

19. Wipe, flush, wash.

20. Back to the food court.  Get food.  Get kids, food, and groceries to a table.

21. Eat.  Feed kids.  Try to keep everyone’s clothes clean.

22.  Go back to the first floor.

23. Ask “Taxi Man” to hail a cab for me.

24. Get everyone and everything in.

25. Give directions. (Easier said than done!)

26. At our building, get both kids out.  Get all the groceries to the door of the building.

27. Unlock outside door, and get both kids up one flight of stairs and into the apartment.

28.  Run back down and get  groceries.

29. Fall into an exhausted heap on the couch.  Wish my kids were old enough to put the groceries away.

* Lest you feel sorry for me, there are small shops close where I get things a lot of times.  I don’t do very many “big” grocery trips lately! Also, there is delivery from a large grocery here once I obtain residency and can order what I want from the store life will be good again.  Definitely looking forward to that!