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

Monday, December 10, 2012

A toddler and a teenager

If you had asked me when Jason and I first got married (at the extrememly mature and wise ages of barely 21 and 22) how many kids I wanted, I'm quite sure my first answer would have been 5, maybe even 6.  Not only did I want at least 5, I was pretty sure in my infinite wisdom, that the best plan would be to have them as closely together as possible.  I mean, after all we wanted lots, so once we got started, what would be the point in spreading out those years of sleepless nights, terrible 2s, diapers etc.  Well.  If you've read my IVF posts, you know that God quite firmly removed the reigns of control as to the timing and number of our children from my hands fairly early on in our marriage.  So, due to circumstances quite beyond our control, although we started our family pretty quickly at the young ages of 25 and 26, we managed to spread out our 4 blessings over the next 12 years.  

 I've decided that once you pass the number 3 as far as number of kids that you have, people are going to find a way to raise their eyebrows.  Face it, you've left the "normal" zone and entered the "weird, you're just asking for it" zone.  I'm pretty sure that if we'd had our kids closer together, for example ages 3,5,7, and 9, we would have gotten a lot of "wow, I bet your hands are full!".  And yes, I'm sure that our hands would have been full in that case.   However, in spreading our kids out, I can assure you that we did not bypass the raised eyebrows.  When we tell people the current ages of our girls- 13, 11, 6 and 18 months, we get a lot of "wow!"s or "oh, you really spread them out!" or "ooooh, I'll pray for you AND your husband".   

Yes, people.  It's true.  VERY VERY much on purpose.  We do have...

a toddler...

(who is apparently working on perfecting her angry expression)

 ...and a teenager

And, of course, as I would not want to leave anyone out, some pretty wonderful middlers to round things off...

We've laughingly thrown around that expression- "a toddler and a teenager" in recent months when when we're describing our girls, but I've realized that it does create a very unique, often challenging, but just as often very fun, environment.  It is also the reason that at the end of most days, I am dog stinkin' tired.  I mean exhausted.  Not always sleepy tired, though- but I can pretty much guarantee you that by 8:00 PM my brain is DONE!  I just want to crawl into bed and not answer any questions, not monitor any arguements, not change any diapers...  you get the idea.  

Now I can't really speak with much authority- but I would think that if your kids were somewhat clumped together- all in the preschool/school age range, your brain as a parent, wouldn't necessarily be pulled in the 137 directions that I feel like mine is pulled in on any given day.  That's not to say, there wouldn't be certain other challenges, but I've realized lately, that, WOW, having a wide age range of kids has some very unique challenges.  For example, training my brain to switch gears VERY quickly.   All in the range of 30 minutes to 1 hour, I've had to field topics like homosexual rights, predestination and the sovereignty of God (13 year old), how to handle it if you know friends are cheating and dealing with mean girls (11 year old), not being afraid to make new friends at recess and being kind to girls who aren't playing with anyone (6 year old), and the ever present toddler topic of "I didn't get my way and I'm going to throw myself on the floor and have a screaming fit and see who notices".  In this all in an hour period usually when I'm trying to fix dinner, help with homework, supervise chores and get girls to various after school events.  Sheeesh.  No wonder my brain shuts off after dinner!  And occasionally before dinner resulting in me doing things like put the milk in the cabinet instead of the refrigerator, tell Anabelle to "to potty" as I hand her diaper to Naomi etc etc.  (I'm sure my family could come up with many more examples.  I seem to remember quite a few times lately when Abbey or Maddie look at me and say something to the effect of "Mom, you realize you just... (insert brainless action here))

So, all that to say, I've decided that definitely the hardest part about this stage of our parenting is the pretty wide age range meaning I  constantly need to be on my toes to know if I need to be wearing "mother of teenager" hat and debriefing a first dance or wearing "mother of toddler" hat and actually disciplining said toddler instead of laughing at her along with the rest of her little mommies in our house.  Sadly, sometimes the girls are better at keeping a straight face over Anabelle's antics than I am!  But what is the hardest part, is also the part that I love the most.  I LOVE this stage of our lives.  Things are exhausting for sure, emotionally overwhelming- that's a fact, but also absolutely completely precious and priceless. 

  I love having built in babysitters and helpers. 

I love that big sisters can set examples for little sisters.  (notice I said "can" which does not always mean they DO- but we're definitely trying to teach awareness of how important that is!).  I love the constant chatter that defines our lives and will for many, MANY more years to come. 

 And most days I even love having to be VERY mentally on my toes, ready to switch gears very quickly and know which mom hat to put on.   

And the whole toddler and a teenager thing?  Yeah, that's fun!  Mostly...  I mean I had heard that often when your kid becomes a teenager they tend to randomly revert back to toddler ways, but hey, since I've already got a toddler- I'm ready for it!  And hormones.  Oh, hormones.  Yes, they run rampant.  But let's be real.  We have 5 girls under one roof.  Hormones are going to run rampant in this house, teenager or not!  And so far I am super blessed by my (mostly) emotionally stable teen and her desire to help and keep this house running smoothly.  

I KNOW we don't do all things right by a long shot and I can't begin to count the amount of times I have to apologize to my girls for one reason or another for another botched discipline attempt (or lack thereof), but I also know how much my girls love each other.  They may not always cherish each other in the day to day grind of "she did this, she did that" but I cherish the relationships they are developing and am so thankful for that unique bond called "sister" that exists in abundance under our roof.  And even though our roof tends to change a lot (14 times and counting in 17 years of marriage), that bond will never change and will hopefully only prove to grow deeper.  

 There's no better friend than a sister-
There's no one more loyal and true...
and even when sisters are different
their likeness comes shining through!

There's no one who's more in your corner...
and no one you're more grateful to.
There's no better friend than a sister
and no better sister than you!
~Mary Engelbreit

Sunday, December 9, 2012


I've realized that when writing about cross cultural experiences, I have tended to do so with somewhat of a negative slant.  Completely unintentional, but true nonetheless.  It's probably because when something comes up to write or share about, it's usually something that I don't understand or don't like or is frustrating in some way.  So anyway, in thinking about that, I decided I should intentionally write about a positive thing or two in regards to the culture in which we have chosen to plant our lives.   There are many that I could choose from, really.  

I think it's safe to say, that for the most part,  Arab peoples, Muslims in particular, are largely misunderstood by many Americans.  Our lack of understanding for their culture and our lack of information about various cultural nuances causes us to look on them with eyes of fear and often judgement.  Sad but true.  And just because I live in this part of the world, I do not exempt myself from this tendency.  

Anyway, as I thought about this, I decided I wanted to share some of the things I love about my Arab neighbors and the way they do life.  Like I said, there are many positive things that I could choose from, but due to several experiences over the last few weeks, one aspect of the culture jumps quickly to my mind.   


Listen up fellow Americans.  We could take a lesson from our Arab friends and neighbors around the world on this subject and be much better off!  I'm not necessarily talking Biblical community here- a subject for another day possibly.  I'm talking good old fashioned, neighborhood style community.  Think Mayberry.  Barnie Fife.  Andy Griffith.  Community.   Sitting on your front porch sipping lemonade waving at your neighbors community.  

If you're close to my age and grew up in the 80s- think playing hide-n-seek around your entire block until 10 o'clock at night and feeling safe doing it kind of community.  Think going on bike rides around your neighborhood unaccompanied by an adult as a middle schooler community.  Think safety because there are other parents and neighbors out there who know your kids and are looking out for them kind of community.  The communities we have lived in on this side of the world have not lost that feel and I love that!   

I can send my 3 older girls (yes, that includes my 6 year old!) down the street and around the corner to the neighborhood convenience store without concern for their safety.  I know the shopkeepers and they know me.  They probably even know where we live which may initially seem a bit creepy, but here, it's really not.  They just know their neighborhoods and what goes on in then.  I was at the pharmacy last weekend which is a good 5-10 minute walk from my house, and another customer came in whom I vaguely recognized.  Turns out, he's the guy who delivers electric bills.  He pulled ours out of his pocket and gave it to me to save himself the trip to our building.   And knowing the community culture like I do, it honestly doesn't freak me out at all that he knows exactly who I am and where I live and which electric bill is mine.  

There's also a sense of trust that kind of goes along with the whole community thing.  Or maybe trust is not the right word.  It's more a sense of honor in regards to standing by what you say.  This is very much an honor/shame society.  And no, I'm not saying that's always good, but I do think we could learn some lessons from it.  Truly, there are negatives, for example, kids being shamed in a school setting is not so great but when it comes to the honor of keeping your word, for example, it can be a good thing.  Here are a couple of examples from our daily lives- all of which have happened within the last month showing that this is not so much a coincidence as a pattern of life here...

The girls and I have become regulars at the pharmacy that is right across from our pediatrician's office.  Between Abbey and Naomi's allergies and Anabelle's ear infections, let's just say we've become "frequent flyers" (to use a term we used when I worked Labor and Delivery and had desperate mom's come in over and over during the last few weeks of their pregnancies...).  Anyway, frequent flyers, that's us.  This pharmacy, by the way, is in a kind of medical district and would not at all be considered "close" to our home by Amman standards.  So we are there a few weeks ago and with all our allergy meds and antibiotics, I owed 48 JOD- a little less than $70.  Well, apparently the pharmacy had decided since our last visit that they no longer accept Master Card, and conveniently, I'd forgotten my debit card (which is visa).  All that to say, I had $70 of meds to buy and no way to pay for them without piling all 4 girls in the car and driving around to find an ATM- NOT easy at 5 o'clock rush hour.   Seeing my frustration, the pharmacist asked what neighborhood I live in.  I told him and he immediately smiled, "no problem" he says.  Gesturing to an assistant, he says, " He lives there.  Give me your phone number and he will come by your house tomorrow or whenever is convenient and get the money."  Awesome.  And, no I was not afraid to tell them where I live, knowing that they genuinely were helping me!

A few weeks ago, Anabelle and I were out for a walk and we stopped at a neighborhood store to pick up a few things.  I realized when I started to pay that I was about $2 short, so I started to put a few things back.  The cashier's response?  (someone who doesn't know me AT ALL, by the way)...  "No problem, no problem.  Bring money tomorrow or as you can.  Please take what you need."  

Just a few days ago, when our car was being worked on and I was trying desperately to stretch our groceries so that I didn't have to make a big grocery run via taxi, I loaded Anabelle into her stroller and walked around to our neighborhood shops which include a bread store, a store with hummus and falafel, a produce stand, a convenience store and a pharmacy all grouped together.  Conveniently, there is also an ATM which can be randomly hard to find!  Anyway, my plan was to get some cash out and then get what I needed at the various stores knowing in advance that I needed a good bit and that they didn't take credit cards.   My first stop was the convenience store that I send the girls to pretty regularly.  After I had unsuccessfully attempted to maneuver Anabelle's stroller through the VERY small aisle and ended up leaving her sitting essentially blocking the door while I gathered the things I could reach and asked for assistance with the things stacked to the ceiling, I realized once all my goods were piled on the counter that I had forgotten to go to the ATM first.  Great.  I explained to the shop keeper that I was going to walk down and get cash and return quickly.  He was almost offended as he quickly corrected me saying that of course I did not have to pay right away.  I could come back "anytime, anytime" or, even better, I could send my "beautiful, wonderful girls" to pay whenever it was convenient.  It's really quite amazing here that, despite the lack of customer service that I have complained about many times before particular at the large chain type stores, when you get into the little neighborhood stores, they are all about serving you, trusting you and making you feel at home in their store.  

So thankful for the sense of community that in so many places is long gone.  Here, on the street where we live.   

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Strange Conversations

I could have alternately made the title to this post, "things I never thought I'd say" or even "things I hoped I'd never say" but there were also some all out strange conversations thrown in the mix over the past 24 hours so I decided to stick with the conversation title...

Here's an example from about an hour time period yesterday morning...

(me to Jason) "Thanks for boiling then diluting the water, honey, so I could rinse the shampoo out of my hair after shivering on the bathtub floor for almost 10 minutes since every last drop of water ran out AFTER I was all lathered up."

(Ok, so obviously I didn't say all that as my lips were blue and I couldn't talk for 30 minutes after said incident but I wanted to give you an idea of how my day started...)

Fast forward about 45 minutes.  Jason leaves to attend an all day conference.  I'm straightening up the kitchen in preparation for the day of having 3 friends spend the day with the girls as their parents are also attending the all day conference.  I notice a "piece of dog food" that has managed to escape from Mia's bowl across the room.  Not at all unusual as Mia likes to get a piece of food, carry it across the room to a certain carpet and eat it there.  Whatever.  Forget about "piece of food".  As I'm cleaning Anabelle wanders in and is jabbering behind me.  She gets quiet.  I look back and notice her standing where the "piece of food" was.  Shoot, she's eating it, I think.  No big deal, right?  It's protein.  Head over to remove dog food from baby's mouth.  It's already down the pipe but I wipe some off her lip and get a whiff.  THAT'S NOT DOG FOOD, THAT'S DOG POOP!!!!!!


Next thing I hoped I'd never say (or in this case text which is what I did to Jason):
"NOOOOOOO!!!!  Anabelle just ate dog poop!!!!!!"

And the answer to why there was a small piece of dog food shaped poop in the middle of our kitchen floor is "I have absolutely no idea".  Mia essentially has a litter box on our balcony and is very well house trained.  Who knows.  

Moving on.  

I mentioned we had friends come to play for the day.  It was a beautiful day so we headed to the park by the girl's school because Abbey and Maddie had rehearsal for their school Christmas program.  I figured we'd play while they rehearsed and then for an extra special treat we'd get McDonald's for lunch.  Mainly because I hadn't been to the grocery store since before Thanksgiving and although I've been known to feed MY kids really random things for lunch like popcorn and cereal on the day before my grocery store run (that happened today), I really didn't want to feed our guests any weird combinations.  So, McDonalds it was.  

First,  here are some fun pictures from our time at the park.

Anabelle loved climbing

And sliding

All the girls...

Big girl and little girl...

Little monkey

Anabelle's standard "cheese" pose whenever she is aware of the camera

Ok, so back to my strange conversations.  On the way from the park to McDonald's, I got everybody's order straightened out in my head.  If you've ever ordered for 7 kids at a fast food restaurant in America and found it at all confusing or challenging, well, try doing it at a fast food restaurant overseas.  That's all I'm going to say.  So I was very proud of my organization and planning ahead and had everybody's order grouped and figured out in my head down to who wanted what drink with what happy meal.  Aj and Maddie head the group into the playground while I go to the counter to order and have the following conversation with a McDonald's worker who I've chosen to name "Psycho Man"...

(first let me say that he saw me herding in 7 kids and was already chuckling when I started to order.  Thankfully the restuarant was virtually empty as we were WAY early for the typical lunch hour here even though it was noon)

(also keep in mind that some of this was in Arabic.  typically in fast food restaurants here there is a very random combination of English and Arabic because, well, "chicken nugget"and "happy meal" don't really translate)

Sorry, I WILL tell you this conversation.
Psycho Man (as I said, he was already chuckling):  Can I help you?
Me: Yes, first I'd like 3 Happy Meals with Chicken Nuggets with 2 sprites and 1 diet coke
Psycho Man:  No, you cannot
Me:  Oh?
Psycho Man:  Only chocolate milk or Tropicana
Me:  No, we always get soft drinks with Happy Meals, I dont' want milk or juice
Psycho Man: No, you cannot.  Problem with machine (he points to soft drink thingy)
Me:  OH, you mean with ANY meal, the only drinks I can get are chocolate milk or orange juice?
Psycho Man:  Yes, only.

(pause as I go re-take drink orders for all kids and return)

Me:  Ok, 3 chicken nugget meals with chocolate milk, 2 cheeseburger meals with chocolate milk
Psycho Man:  Ok
Me:  Also 2 Big Mac meals (my oldest 2 are way beyond Happy Meals...) with chocolate milk
Psycho Man:  No, you cannot
Me:  Huh?  
Psycho Man:  No chocolate milk with Big Mac meal.  
Me:  But you have not soft drinks and they don't like orange juice
Psycho Man:  You want coke?
Me:  You told me no coke
Psycho Man:  Now, there is coke (it's been like 2 minutes).
Me:  Ok, diet coke?
Psycho Man:  No, only coke
Me: Fine, coke.  

(get orders and send Abbey back to get nugget sauce and she's told by psycho man that she has to pay for it. good grief)

Me:  Sorry, I just bought nuggets and I have to pay for the sauce?
Psycho Man:  You must pay
Me: Seriously, that's ridiculous, I PAID for the nuggets...
Psycho Man:  You must pay.
Another worker:  Here is the sauce


Ok, I think that story lost a bit of it's punch in the re-telling but it was quite Twilight Zone-ish....

Fast forward to tonight and we're sitting around the dinner table doing our Jesse Tree Advent devotional.  We're doing it around the dinner table because last night when we attempted it AFTER dinner it was a complete disaster because it was PAST Anabelle's bedtime and, well, it just wasn't pretty.  So we decided to do it over dinner tonight.  

Here's part of the conversation...

Me (pausing from reading the Scriputre):  Naomi, do you know who the serpent was?
Naomi:  Yep, a maid.
Me:  Umm, no.  

(pause to describe difference between serpent and, well, I guess she's thinking of "servant")

Fast forward to after we've read the Scripture passage and are discussing it...

Jason:  Naomi, can you tell us what happened to Adam and Eve in the garden?
Naomi:  Sure, they ate the Apple of Death (said in a witchy voice) and had to leave.  

Ok, as you can imagine, we've totally lost our audience at this point..

Seriously, the apple of death?  I honestly don't know where she gets this stuff!!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Handprint Skirt

I will be the first to tell you that I do not have a creative bone in my body.  I'm a great copy cat.  Someone else shows me a fabulous idea and exactly how to do that idea then I'm all about carrying it through.  But actually coming up with the idea- nope, not me at all.  So anyway, 11 years ago may be the last original idea I had.  I only had 2 kids back then and a lot more brain cells.  I'm not claiming that this is any kind of fantastic idea.  I'm sure there are plenty who do it, but it was original to me at the time.  This was before pinterest, before facebook and crafty blogs.  We were living in a temporary house and our Christmas decor was somewhat pitiful.   I needed a tree skirt so AJ and Maddie and I headed up to Walmart in search of the perfect idea.  We came home with a heavy piece of white fabric and some red edging type ribbon.  Sewed the pieces together and voila, our Christmas tree skirt.  Starting when Abbey and Maddie were 2.5 and 4 months, we started our handprint tradition and minus a year here, a year there (when we were traveling and not with our stuff), we've continued the tradition.

It's really fun to see how it's filled up over the years especially now that we have 4 sets of handprints!

Getting the writing just so is hard with puff paint!

The finished product is very "home grown" and not exactly elegant, but we love it!

A sweet reminder of little hands that are growing up way too fast!

Decorating Day

 Do you ever have one of those days where you've planned everything out in your mind to be just so, and it's going to be a wonderful, magical day full of family memories that will be treasured for a lifetime, and then it's just, well, so NOT that.

That was my day yesterday.  Or at least the first part of my day.  

I'd been working all week towards Friday being our Christmas decorating day and was SO proud of myself as I don't think I've ever managed to decorate for Christmas before December 1.  But the fact that we kind of had an extra buffer week thrown in there between Thanksgiving and December gave me a little room to work with.  So I had a plan.  The Christmas footlockers were down from the top of the closets and brought in from a friends' storage closet that she so generously allowed us to use and we were ready.  Jason had an all day conference Friday and Saturday (that's our weekend here), but I was actually very much looking forward to a day home with the girls on Friday, staying in PJ's, drinking hot chocolate, listening to Christmas music, decorating the tree etc. etc.  The plan was to get most of the preliminary decorating stuff done and then when Jason got home we could finish off the tree, drink more hot chocolate maybe watch a good Christmas movie, sing Kumbayah and go to bed.  You get the idea.  Picture perfect day.  In my head.  

Then Friday morning came and I woke up.

Jason left early to get to his meeting, Maddie got up with Anabelle and I got to sleep in until 9.  Should be the perfect start to the perfect day, right?  Well for whatever reason I woke up very grumpy, and even though I got to sleep in, waking up to my house looking like a hurricane hit was not great.  The girls are usually great about getting chores done and cleaning up but not this particular day.  Didn't sit well with me, and I will confess that I didn't react very well.  Which led to us all having a mammoth case of the grumpies as we cleaned up in order to get ready for hurricane Christmas to hit once we opened the footlockers.   I huddled the girls up, called a truce, apologized for being so grumpy, explained that I was just trying to make this day extra special and fun and we all agreed to start over.  

I now as I'm writing this, I can't even really remembered specific things that happened, I just know that it was NOT turning out like the picture perfect day that was in my head.  

Anyway, we finished chores, got Anabelle down for her nap, and were finally ready to start decorating the tree and house.  The girls starting unpacking and sorting our artificial tree...

Only to discover that the center pole for the tree was missing.  AGHHH!  I called my friend who stored it for me and she was actually free and offered to drive me out and see if we could find it in her storage area.  Bless her.  I think she could tell that i was on the verge of a breakdown for a reason that I'm realizing I can't even really begin to describe...  (have I mentioned that Anabelle really has not slept this week and I am way sleep deprived so maybe that explains my fragile emotional state).  Anyway.

Pole found.  Crisis averted.  

Another round of apologies from mom to girls for her irrational, highly emotional state.  We actually even sat down and prayed together for the Christmas season in our home and the hope that as a family we will keep the real meaning in front of us.    And the day really improved from there!  Jason even came home early from his meeting and got to join in the tree decorating fun.  

Anabelle was WAY excited about the Christmas tree when she woke up from her nap.

So the Cox home is now ready to usher in the Christmas season!

Yes, our Christmas stockings are way pitiful.  Every year I've said I'm going to make them and I never have.  Maybe it will happen this year but considering it's December 1st, I probably shouldn't count on it!

I love my Fontanini nativity.  If I lived in the states I would probably add a lot more to it, but it's not something I ever remember to get.  I do want a more kid friendly nativity and almost ordered one this year but then, well, I didn't.  Maybe next year.

 Now that we live in Jordan, I really want to get a natural olive wood nativity.  They are beautiful and I would love to add that to our Christmas decor.

We also have this fun nativity from Jason's childhood in West Africa.  If you look at it closely it has some really interesting weird pieces...

I've never been able to identify Mary, and quite frankly Baby Jesus looks like a dying martian.  Or E.T.  

So despite the rocky, emotional start to the day (shocking in this house full of women!), our house is now decorated and we made lots of fun memories.  Even got Abbey out the door to a school dance (that I'd forgotten about thus creating some of the stress mid- day as we weathered an "outfit crisis") by 4:30 and she still participated in all the tree decorating.  

AND, I am officially ready to begin our Jesse Tree TODAY, DECEMBER 1!   That means I have at least 1 ornament done and the tree to hang it on and hopefully this year I'll stay a little ahead of the curve and we'll be able to complete it!  

Merry Christmas Season to all!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


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.


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?