Wednesday, September 17, 2014


I had this crazy clash of two worlds as I put my baby down for a nap just now.  All swaddled and fresh, I walked him across the quiet, clean living room to lay him in his fancy battery operated swing (the one his brother and sister hated and refused to hang out in…much to the sadness of their momma’s tired arms). And in that moment, a scene flashed in my head. 
Told you Little t hated the swing! ;)
 Sitting in a stuffy room full of women who could really use a bath. The air hangs lazily and flies meander through it.  Outside, the constant chatter of children and conversation of animals provide a hum of background noise.  In the distance I hear someone being scolded and the slop of water as someone else washes laundry.  I lay my sleeping baby in a wooden swing contraption that is suspended from the ceiling.  The rope off the side is handed to a grandma who is in charge of gently pulling it so the swing sways back and forth.  Grandma will get tired after a few minutes and switch the rope to her other hand. Depending on how long the babe sleeps, she may even have to resort to the rope between her toes. I will sit on cushions and sip tea with these ladies as we talk the afternoon away.  Other ladies from the village will come and go, kids tumble in and out the door and are scolded for not playing outside quietly.  My own kids will be pulling me in different directions.  Little t will be begging to go outside and play with the sheep and village boys. Z girl will have a death grip on my leg and plead with me to not even think of leaving her sight. 

Breaking the fast with local workers
 I keep an eye on my watch because timing is of the essence.  We have to be on the road in time to make it home before nightfall. Everyone knows you don’t travel these roads when dusk hits.  But more importantly, I need to begin making out exit before the preparations for supper begin. The preparations begin long before the invitations. If you wait to be invited, you have usually waited too long.  And in a village like this, when people go out of their way to prepare a meal for you…much nicer than what they would normally eat on any given day, you kind of need to honor them.  And much like the book, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” if you stay long enough for the preparations and the invitations and the eating of supper, you will definitely be working your way towards spending the night….because remember the road thing?  And also, it is just rude to leave that late.  But really, as much as I love time in the village and spending nights in the village, the thought of doing it with three children terrifies me.  I know they won’t sleep and will run around like crazy people. I know we will then have to do breakfast and most likely lunch the next day…and I don’t have the gumption for that as a momma of three living in this foreign land.  So all that to say, I plan my goodbyes early.

Back in my clean living room, I am suddenly choked up as I lay my baby in his fancy American swing.  Because as much work as going to the village is with my little people,  as much as we come home dirty and tired and stressed about potential fleas and diarrhea, we love it. But here, as I open my refrigerator to quickly find good food, as I freely take walks and let my kids play at the playground, as I soak in chu.rch and time with family, I find myself loving that too.  I find myself relishing in the life we are living right now. I am utterly enjoying not constantly taking tabs on security, not always checking that things are quiet, not going through the 10 extra steps that it takes to make life happen in that culture as a foreigner and a woman.  Once again my heart breaks and I find myself tired from the struggle of knowing which way to lean. 

On a shopping outing to the local Wal-Mart. It is busy and chaotic and a lot of work, but I LOVE shopping here!
 We honestly don’t know what the days ahead hold for us.  We don’t know where we will end up or which swing our baby will nap in.  It is something we think about and talk about and pray about constantly.  Our hearts are torn. 

We do know that God is calling us to embrace this time and place. Like I said, we are relishing in the joys of life here right now; time with our kids, time with family and friends, time to grow and learn and rest.  The last year has not been easy for us and we find God calling us to rest in Him and soak in His goodness in this place (not really in the physical sense because we have three crazy tiny people running around our house…so physical rest is kind of a joke).  So, we are committed to doing that and allowing Him to work and speak about what is next in His timing. 

Are kids are loving the ease and freedom of life here in the States. And we are finding so much join in when thriving here. This photo is actually in Paris...pretty sure I could thrive there too!
 These verses in Romans 12 have been a good challenge for us in these days:
“Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply, practice playing second fiddle. Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times, pray all the harder.  Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

Bless your enemies, no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they are happy, share tears when they are down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck up. Make friends with nobodies, don’t be the great somebody. Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone.”

We feel that learning how to better live out these verses is what we are to be about in these days.  So while we drink good coffee and play on playgrounds while soaking in the fall weather, while we dream about and long for that beautiful and crazy land we love, we will do just that.
The view out of our gate in made nights of 40 below worth it!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Are You My Orphan?

As I hear the bell ring I let out a tired sigh. Part of me wished that you wouldn’t show up today.  It is cold and snowy, the kids are crabby and I just want to stay in my pajamas. As I let you in to do some work in my house, I think about the way you haunted my fragmented sleep last night.  Even though the heater was on in the kids’ room, I shivered as I sat to nurse Zara.  And as I shivered I thought of you and the people you now call family.  I thought of the way the wind whips around the hill where your house is. I thought of the 5 inch gaps that surround the window in your one room dwelling.  I thought of your thin clothes that are insufficient for fighting off the stinging cold. 

I am not sure how exactly I got tied up in your story, but I am pretty selfishly sure that I wish I wasn’t.  Every story and plea for money that you share becomes even crazier than the one before. They both tick me off and break my heart at the same time.  They tick me off because in all honesty, I don’t want to be burdened by your problems and the seemingly impossible task of finding a solution that will both empower you and bring justice to your oppressors. I would much rather hole up in my warm house for the winter and pretend that I didn’t need to worry about the cold, hungry and lonely souls around me. Because that is just messy. And I don’t like messy. 

But the non-Grinch part of me hurts for you.  I hurt every time I see your body quaking from the cold when I open the door. I hurt every time I tell you I won’t give you another loan…because I don’t know what that no means for your wellbeing tonight. I hurt when I see you hungrily eat a piece of naan and wonder if your belly is ever full.  I hurt when I think the pressure that sits on your thin 13 year old shoulders; to work or plead or beg for money to feed hungry mouths and fill greedy hands.  I hurt when I think of your loss; your mother who has died, your father who is absent, your three young brothers living elsewhere.  I hurt because I want to give you the world, but at the same time I don’t want to give you anything.

I don’t know how to reconcile where we stand these days.  As much as I want to pretend that you don’t exist, my heart can’t and won’t let that happen.  It has a lot to do with the fact that my Holy Book says that there is no better way for me to spend my life than by helping people like you.  It is messy, painful, costly and thankless work. But my heart won’t fully rest until I am in the middle of the mess.

I know the answer to the question before I even ask it.  Are you my orphan?  You are.  You have the potential to help me more than I could ever help you. And so we will continue to walk this bumpy messy road together.

God's Water

Sometimes when we are juggling our crazy kids, and crazy travel schedule and crazy life, we look back and wish we had take advantage of when things were a little easier.  Why didn’t we travel more before we had to worry about teething and diapers and the messed up sleep schedules of four people instead of just two? 

One of the biggest things we have learned while living overseas is to get something when you see it.  I can’t tell you how many times I have seen something in the bazaar and thought, “I think I would really like that…I will go home and think on it and come back to get it if I still feel that way in a few days.” That never works, because that thing is always gone. Always.   So, we are trying to integrate thing thinking into other areas of our life as well. We are learning to take advantage of opportunities when we have them, no matter how crazy or exhausting they seem in the moment.  I know it is cliché to say that our days are numbered, but we really feel that in this place.  We count it a unique gift to be able to be here and we don’t know how long that will last.  So, we are working on seizing the day.

For a while I have kicked myself that we didn’t seize the day when we lived in Lal. We had the opportunity to visit Band-e-Amir and we didn’t take it. We were tired from traveling to the village so much and tired of being sick, and tired of our staff….so when the staff trip happened we said no thanks and stayed home to sleep in.  But looking back, we were sad we didn’t take advantage of seeing this place that so many rave about. 

Fast forward to two months ago and we found ourselves in Lal again.  We had a great time re-visiting that place that was so foundational in our growth and introduction into this land.  After two weeks there, we loaded up into a LandCruiser and took off across the mountains with 40 of our staff (and their kids) in search of Bande Amir. 

Band-e-Amir is a chain of seven lakes that are literally in the middle of nowhere. They are not man-made…they are a Gift from God. Only God knows how they got there. Only God knows how deep they are. Only God knows how he lined the lakes with Lapis Lazuli (obviously how they became so blue in color). Only God knows all of the healing properties that the waters hold.  Our staff reverently reminded us of these things on our way there. 

The trip was not easy. One car broke down…in the middle of nowhere.  We crammed a bunch more people in and kept going.  A long long time later we arrived and were met with breathtaking views of the bluest water we had ever laid eyes on.

We made our way to the bazaar area and found a tea house to camp out in.  We felt very spoiled to have a whole room for our family. Because of my gifting in attracting fleas, we spent a LONG time dousing our room and all of the cushions, etc. In flea powder and ourselves in bug spray.  God still does miracles because I walked out of three nights in that place with only one flea bite. 

The next few days were spent hiking, exploring, swimming and spending time with our staff.  We had a fantastic time and are SO glad that we too advantage of the opportunity to go.  It was so much fun!  I will leave you with a few photos of the beautiful place.

The sunset view our first night there

You can rent paddle boats to take out on the water

Little T and A.P. Marvelling at the beauty of the water. 

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The Little Lady got worn out with all the hiking

Little T and Mr. Renee feeding the fish

Little T in his happy place

The son of one of our staff members. He and Little T became fast friends

The beauty was really unbelievable

We went to another one of the lakes to swim in the frigid water. Such a fantastic adventure!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Settling In

We were very happy to fly back in to Faiz on Saturday morning.  After a month in the States and time in the capital on each end of our trip, we were all ready to be in our own house and swing of things again.

The more we travel, the better we get at it. And the more we do the same things when we return home.   Little t had been pining after his own bed and his guitar for a few weeks.  He immediately searched the house for his guitar when we arrived.  He picked it up and began singing, “ohhh, we are back in Faiz and we got no worries! We are so glad to be back home in Faiz and we got no worries!”  He then proceeded to bounce from room to room, playing with his favorite toys, lounging on his bed, watching a few minutes of a movie, painting a picture, going outside to play, looking for the turtles, checking for eggs, hanging out with the chickens, etc.  He just has to cover his bases of his favorite things in the first few hours and then he can settle down! J

Baby Z also had to adjust a little to being a more proficient walker in our house.  Each room has little steps up or down. She spent most of the day learning which way to step. Poor thing fell quite a bit and was mad, but had the house conquered by the end of the day.  She was very proud of herself, thought that she could easily step over the metal grate in the sidewalk that she has been terrified of up until now.  

I used the energy of having a mostly clean house and distracted kids to wipe things down…though the dust wasn’t nearly as bad as we anticipated (thankfully) and put some things in order.  I have learned that I need to take advantage of the first week or so back home after a trip. I am always motivated to clean and organize and set things up in that week. If I don’t tackle projects then, the likelihood of them getting down is very slim.  So, I try to jump on things right away. I am excited to have brought back some fun decoration things and I am looking forward to finally putting some finishing touches on rooms.  

A.P. went to work taking care of us as he always does. He worked on fixing the shower, shopping for groceries, doing odd jobs and helping us get settled.  He is amazing. 

As happy as we are to be back, there are always quirks:  
 -          Little t was frustrated all day with how dirty the floor was and kept asking to vacuum. I assured him that once the power came on (we only have power in the evening) we could. He kept forgetting…I kept reminding.  
           - We are back to cloth diapering…that means extra work of rinsing diapers at night.  It is work, but worth it.
             -Little t is easily frustrated and agitated in the first few weeks we are home. We notice more outbursts and naughtiness. It is exhausting, but good to now realize that it is part of his adjustment and he will quickly return to his happy, intense, easy-going self soon.  
            - I am back to cooking here.  It is hard work and takes a lot of time and preparation and creativity. I am not super good at it, but my family has to eat, so I have to work at it.   It is also a sad realization that a lot of the things we love to eat (deli meat, cheese, cheese, cheese) aren’t available. My kids are picky (there, I have said it…I have been in denial about it for a long time, but it is true) and I struggle to find things they will ingest happily.
          - I am also trying to get my hair back in the swing of not being washed every day…or every other day even.  It is a hard change to make. 
          - Baby Zar is tired of being jostled around between beds and having some trouble sleeping. I am tired of being up a lot at night and hoping that some time in one place will help us all get more rest.  Thankfully Little T has down us on this trip that he has grown up to be a stellar sleeper, so we are hopeful that Baby Zar will get there eventually as well. 

      We don’t have any more travel planned until the spring (and we are really happy about that) so we are looking forward to settling in for the winter and getting into some good routines and having a time of growth. I am looking forward to blogging more, trying new recipes, learning more about knitting, getting back into my exercise routine and devotional routine.  Travel is fun, but I am looking forward to laying low for a while. We are happy to be settling in.    

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Long Hot Days

The thermometer says it is 98.5 degrees today, but it feels hotter than that.  The summer days crawl by as we learn and grow and work together in this land.  The month of fasting is upon us and it makes everyone hungrier, a little more tired and a lot more grouchy.  I have said more than once that if I had any temptation to change religions, one month in a context like this during Ramadan would be enough to keep me from doing so.  I try to not become jaded, but it is hard.  I am quick to see the negative in people these days. That is always an indication that I need to rub shoulders with friends and neighbors more to be reminded of why we are here.

I am reading in John about  Jesus' last weeks on earth and I find His passion and focus convicting. I am quick to give in, to find excuse for taking the easy way out.  But what would happen if I stuck with it for the long haul, gave just a little more, took a risk here and there?  I am asking God to show me how to do that.

I have a lot I want to share, but felt like I needed to get the ball rolling somehow.  So, here is to more writing and less sweating!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Don't Mess With a Good Thing!

I have been in a cooking funk lately (and a blogging funk...obviously).  I like to cook, I like to branch out and try new things, but I also like for my family to eat what I make. That doesn't always happen when I try new things.  Most days I sit in my kitchen trying to figure out what to serve.  I look at my meagre pantry (I need to work on stocking it) and think about the lack of variety available in the bazaar and that makes me want to cry.  Also, I don't have a fridge, so it makes it hard because I can't cook and save for later.

We can get fresh bread all day long, so we usually have bread with something for lunch.

For supper I try to go with something more substantial, but that doesn't always happen.  Language lessons, visitors, little people and naps all take away from that goal. On days when things are really crazy, we usually resort to pancakes and eggs.  Everyone in our family loves pancakes. It is one thing that I know my kids will eat.

We have eaten pancakes a lot lately. I have tried a lot of different recipes for pancakes...some successful, others not so much.  I had a really good recipe I used for quite a while, but I lost it so I have been on the hunt for a new goodie. For us, the thicker/wheatier/heartier the pancake the better! Behold: The fantastic pancake recipe!!!

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes    From the More With Less Cookbook
original recipe (what I have written here) says it serves 3....I double it and we have the leftovers for breakfast the next day.

1 cup buttermilk (I use 1T vinegar + milk to make one cup)
2 T vegetable oil
1 egg

Add and mix only until moistened:
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt

Fry in hot lightly greased skillet

I actually use 3/4 cup wheat flour and 1/4 cup wheat germ.  I find the wheat flour is nice here than white, so I don't even buy white flour.

We add eggs and fruit to the meal. We eat our with peanut butter and syrup, homemade applesauce, cherry jam, syrup, honey, lemon juice and sugar...the possibilities are endless!    Noshe Jaan (eat up!)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Living Hope

My very cute 3 year old looks at me and rolls his eyes as he mutters, ‘whatever’ under his breath.  You would have thought I had asked him to give away all of his toys instead of pick up the napkin he dropped on the floor.  I freeze. I know that I need to address this…but how. 

Once again, I am a deer caught in the headlights of parenting.  So many times during the day I find myself at a loss for how to raise this spunky child well.  How do I explain grace to a 3 year old? How do I get to the heart issues and not just get him to obey?  How do I tell him more about  Have I pra.yed enough for him and his sister today?  I find myself overwhelmed most days.  Dismayed that the tantrums (on both of our parts occasionally) continue and we feel like communication is falling on deaf little ears. 

I so desperately want my babies to know and love Him, but many days I stumble through my own faith and doubt that I am passing much on.  It is times like this that discouragement sets in and my reading goes into overdrive.  I pour over books, pr.ay for insight and wisdom to stick. We plead with God to give us wisdom in our daily lives and interactions with the precious ones entrusted to us.

 Today 1 Peter 1 struck me.  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given u a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in Heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation is revealed in the last time.  In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.”  

Living hope.  This is what I have. And this is what God is working in the lives of my little ones, even though my attempts are feeble. It was such a reminder of what my Heavenly Father has been speaking to me in these months – that He is infusing hope into every part of my life. His hope is what nurtures my children along. It is what nurtures me along.  I am so thankful for that reminder in these days where it feels like I am swimming upstream. 

So once again, here’s to hope…that God is working in spite of me.  That He is moving in mighty ways in my life and the lives of my family.  He is infusing hope in dark places and His light will shine.