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

Monday, May 24, 2010

My little piece of green

So it's no secret that one of my biggest struggles with living in Lebanon has been the lack of green and wide open spaces mainly in the city in our immediate surroundings.  Obviously (see other posts) there is plenty of beautiful scenery to be had in a fairly short drive out of the city, but in our day to day life, there is a pretty serious lack of green. 

Every year, I have loved making our balcony sort of a green haven and this year has been no different.  Flower markets are in abundance here and I have found one in particular with practically every variety of beautiful flower you can imagine.  I kept things pretty simple this year to start off with mainly because I have promised Maddie that I will take her back with me to pick more flowers as we still have plenty of pots to fill.  Pardon the pitiful looking ficus in the corner.  No, it is not dying, it is simply needing more love.  Granted, it almost died this winter but I am now in the process of revitalizing it.  Thankfully it's recovering nicely as I have been strictly forbidden by my sweet husband from ever purchasing a ficus again.  I have a tendency to kill them.  Quickly.  And they aren't really cheap here.   This one was actually given to us by some friends when they moved back to the states (as well as the wonderful wicker rocker that has become a favorite reading place for all three girls).  Anyway, it must have somehow gotten tricked in the moving process from their house to ours and does not realize that it is now in the care of a pathological ficus killer.  Also pardon the pot on the ground that looks somewhat pitiful.  It is awaiting the flowers that Maddie picks out.  During the school year it was home to the girls radish, corns and beans that they grew for their science class.  

Here's the other side of the balcony looking over to the balcony on the girls room.  It's hard to tell but in the right corner is a vine that translates from Arabic to "crazy" in English because it pretty much grows anywhere and everywhere here- maybe kind of like the Lebanese version of Missisippi Kudzu come to think of it!  Thankfully though, this version of crazy is downright beautiful once it starts blooming- unlike it's MS counterpart which is just annoying.  Mine has kind of a coral flower.  I need to get some sort of lattice or something for it to grow on.  In the left corner there against the wall is my gardenia tree.  It's frustrating me.  I placed it very strategically right by my balcony sliding glass door so that we could keep the door opened and smell the blooms.  It has SO MANY blooms on it and the bush is very healthy- even has new growth but the blooms keep turning brown and falling off before they open---WHY!?!   Behind the vine and bush, there is a little area for potted plants in between the two balconies.  I have some shrubbery growing there for now.  Unfortunately I also have a very dead lavendar plant that I bought a few years ago.  It didn't make it.  However, when I was still holding out hope that it would make it, I moved it to this spot to get more sun.  I basically had to semi-toss it to get it into place or else climb out there myself and risk falling three stories down.  Anyway, long story short, it's there now and it's too heavy for me to get it out.  Oh well.  You can't really see it but when green is so scarce it seems a shame to be wasting the space! 

The table you see is Jason and my morning Bible reading and coffee/tea drinking spot.  Our weather recently has been unseasonably cool and we are so thankful to still be able to enjoy our balcony before the summer heat wave hits! 

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Like clay in the hand of the potter...

Sometimes it's so easy to take things for granted, like where we live for example.  In the heart of the city, it's so easy to forget that we live in the very land where Jesus walked.  Thankfully, every so often we are able to take a trip to the south to visit this beautiful area.  The rugged hillsides, the olive groves, it's simply picture perfect.  Above is the snow capped peak of Mount Hermon which is a little difficult to see through the haze, but you can take my word for it. 

As is often the case when we are serving as tour guides for our area, things don't always go as planned.  This particular trip to the south was no exception.  Thankfully though, these unexpected changes usually end up better than anything we could have planned and that is exactly what happened this time.  We were directed to a particular village that is known for it's pottery.  We were able to meet a precious local couple who are the last of a generation of potters in this particular village.  They walked us through the entire process of their work of making both bricks and pottery.  For bricks they start with a mixture of mud and hay like this...

They take this mixture and put it in an oven they've constructed in their hillside..

 I loved that he had this little radio sitting beside where he was working..

Moving on up the hillside to the roof, they showed us how they made pottery.  First they dig deep into the ground to find the clay and separate it from the dirt.  They soak the clay in water until it becomes a yogurt-like consistency and then they spread it out to harden for 14 days.   Everything is set up on the roof top with a beautiful view of the valley below.

Here on this tree, you can see some of the finished products...

We walked further up the hill towards the work area where we were able to take our pick in a roomful of last years creations.  They haven't started yet this year, but are still in the process of getting everything ready.

This sweet man was such a joy to watch at work.  You could tell he was so proud of us work and so pleased to have someone to share it with.  Sadly he is one of only two potters left in this little village and the other is often at work in the city.  He wanted to pass his trade on to one of his 5 children but they were not interested in taking it up.

He climbed behind the wheel and was so pleased to give us a demonstration...

It was amazing how quickly the lump of clay begin taking shape.  I love his pleased expression!

He was literally caressing the clay.  It was such a beautiful process to watch.

He handled each piece so delicately and so masterfully.

He had all of these pieces completed in under 10 minutes.

Watching the potter at work, I was really overwhelmed by the picture of God's love for me.  His (the potter's) expression was one of absolute pleasure as he formed each lump of clay into a unique creation, carefully crafting and molding each part with a very deliberate purpose.  

Jeremiah 18: 3-6  "So I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel.  But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.  The the word of the Lord came to me:  "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?"  declares the Lord.  "Like clay in the hand of the potter, so you are in my hand", O house of Israel.

I praise him that no matter how marred I am, He can shape me according to His perfect plan!

Friday, May 14, 2010

A litte of this, a little of that...

I haven't blogged in a while.  I had gotten in a good routine for a while and then I just stopped.  I am just not organized enough to keep computer time high on my list of priorities these days!  I love writing and I love looking at blogs, I just haven't figured out a way to regularly fit it in with everything else!  I have had all these thoughts swirling around in my head recently of things that would be good to blog about but there is somehow a disconnect between the thought swirling in my head and actually getting it onto the computer....  oh well. 

To get me back in the groove, here are a few random happenings from this week.  It's been a low key week mostly.  I've felt pretty rotten and Jason has had lots of computer work so we have mostly just stayed around the house.  I'm actually pretty stir crazy and would very much love to get out except for the fact that my stomach feels pretty gross.  A lovely, oh too common occurence where we live. 

Anyway, I"m rambling because this post mostly does not have a point.  Ok, so stories from the week.  We had guests over for dinner last night (Thursday) and the way my week went, I ended up needing to go to the grocery store on Wednesday night-  not my favorite end of the day activity.  Naomi and Maddie love going to the grocery and begged to go, and for whatever reason at 8 at night I said yes.  So off we go to the grocery.  Of course as we are walking in, Naomi wipes out on the pavement and skins her knee.  For the average child, no big deal, but NOT for the extrememely allergic to pain and blood, drama queen Naomi.  In her defense, she kept her control and only mildly wailed as we hurried through the grocery store.  At one point she moans from the grocery cart where she was riding (yes, she is entirely too big but I had her in the big part and was stacking groceries around her), "Mom, my leg elbow really hurts!!".  Obviously, we need to work on body parts a bit...   I've told her umpteen times that it's called a knee but she is sticking with the whole "leg elbow" thing...

Yesterday Jason decided to take Naomi on a date and when he asked her where she wanted to go to lunch, she said "Chili's!".  Chili's is a rare treat here since it's pretty expensive and the prices seem to keep going up, but he decided to take her since it would only be the two of them.  A few hours later they got home and he told her to tell me what happened.  She grins big and says, "I gotted lockted in the bafroom!".  The bathrooms there don't have stalls, they are little individual rooms with their own padlocking doors (no option of crawling under the stall here...).  Anyway, he let her go into the ladies room by herself to wash her hands while he waited.  (Just as a side note here, child safety issues where we live are COMPLETELY different than in the states.  Don't freak out that we let our kids go to the bathroom themselves.  Kidnappings and other crimes against kids are basically non-existant here.  We let waiters and waitresses cart our kids off around the restaurant all the time without thinking twice about it...  Anyway).  So he's waiting for her and here's her muffled yell of, "DAAAADDDY!!".  He checks to make sure the coast is clear and heads into the ladies room where he realizes that the lock on her door is broken and won't turn.  In comes the hostess and half the wait staff where they work for around 15 minutes to get her out.  She didn't act too scared but gave Jason a pretty tight, long hug when she finally got out.   AND, to top it off, the got back to the table and were told that their lunches would be on the house as well as ice cream for Naomi- THAT NEVER HAPPENS HERE!!  

Sorry if this is boring- it's been pretty non-eventful around here this week.  Earlier today, all three girls were getting out their bins of "Littlest Pet Shop" to play with.  They have A LOT,  as well as a set of wooden blocks that they use to set up a big house for them.  When I say alot, I'm talking 30-40 of these little 2 inch, funky looking "pets" as well as lots of accessories to go with them.  They have dogs, cats, iguanas, hamsters, frogs, birds, even a monkey I think.  So they had them all spread out and were choosing who got to "be" who.  Mind you, each pet has a very specific name and although they all pretty much look the same to me, they do NOT at all look the same to them nor do they have the same importance.  Well.  All of a sudden I hear Naomi wailing, "BUT ABBEY, I want to be 'Cheese', you always get to be 'Cheese', puuuhhhllleeeasse let me be 'Cheese"" and my big, 10 year old (normally pretty mature these days) responding just as loudly, "Naomi, 'Cheese' is mine, I bought him and I want to be him, you always try and take 'Cheese' and he's mine.".  Thankfully it was early in the day, there hadn't been too much bickering, and I actually got tickled by the whole ridiculous conversation.  I went in trying to keep a straight face (unfortunately Naomi could tell I was laughing which made her even more mad).  I say, "Seriously, Abbey?  You're fighting with her over a 2 inch plastic toy named 'Cheese'??  (lest there be any confusion, by the way, Cheese is not a hamster or a cute little mouse, Cheese is a dog- go figure).  Abbey (at this point very frustrated that Naomi is trying to take 'Cheese' and is also sitting in the midst of the "house" she had arranged) says, "Mom, she shouldn't get her way by yelling, and she always "be's cheese""!!  Thankfully, we all lost it at that point and I don't even know who got to be Cheese. 

Hopefully soon I'll have more excited things to share...