Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hold the Sugar Coating, Please

It's been ages since I've written, I know...Truth is, things have been hard lately, and I was trying to live by that trusty old proverb, "If you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything at all."  So I didn't.

I definitely get the whole idea behind positive thinking, and I definitely agree with it.  BUT, sometimes I feel like I'm not allowed to be real with myself or feel things genuinely if I'm forcing myself to always be positive about everything.  There are legitimately things in life that aren't great.  There are tough times.  It may not be uplifting to admit that I'm struggling, but plastering on a fake smile and spouting insincere positivity certainly isn't helping, either. 

Things will get better, as they always do.  And they really could be worse!  We have our health, and we have a home.  I know that we are blessed.

Prayers for blessings on all of you this Christmas season!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Like a Child

We're having a "business vacation" in San Francisco currently--here for the annual ASOR meetings (American Schools of Oriental Research...aka, the conference for archaeology geeks).  It's always a fun event (it's only the third one I've been able to attend) because we get to reconnect with a bunch of friends from so many different stages of life and from so many different places.  In that sense, it's almost like a reunion of memories past.  And it's a gold mine for professional networking for Owen, as well.

We just rolled into town last night and settled into our budget hotel, and today the kids and I went on a mission to explore our immediate neighborhood by foot.  Jack is adorable: I had told him excitedly, "Today we get to go explore the neighborhood!"  He matched my enthusiasm with wide-eyed wonder, "Mr. Roger's neighborhood?!"  (I think he's only seen the show once, ever.)  I felt terrible letting him down, but then again, there were trolleys!  I reminisced about our Amman days as I puffed up 45 degree inclines with one child strapped to me and the other pushed in front, and it felt good to exert myself again in the warm sunshine.

Around dinnertime, we drove downtown to meet up with Owen and some friends, and of course had trouble finding reasonable parking.  I was determined to find free street parking!  I was just about to give up, when I happened across an empty street boasting a plethora of free parking spaces!  I was so excited that I didn't realize until I'd parked why this section of street was not terribly popular: the entirety of it was heavily populated by shady-looking homeless people and (I'm quite certain) drug dealers.  It was very shady.  I only felt slightly better that there was a Youth With A Mission located there...albeit behind iron gates and bars.  I was so committed to my free parking plan, however, that we stayed.

Safita is such a lovely, sweet, happy, friendly child, always bursting with smiles and eager to interact with other people.  I am told constantly by people that she is the friendliest baby they've ever seen.  So as I toted my kids down Sketchy Street, my Little Miss Sunshine was nearly leaping out of my arms trying to say hello to every single vagabond we passed.  She didn't notice their tattered clothes, the dark circles under their eyes, their greasy hair...It took a good deal of effort to hold on to her!

And it was another one of those frequent backwards moments where my child taught me a lesson.  Oh, to be like a child and not be so quick to pre-judge people or qualify who should be deserving of our kindness.  Safita reminded me that people are more than the situations they find themselves in, they are more than the mistakes they've made, and they all deserve kindness and good will.  I am inspired to have more "x-ray" vision like a child: to see past the outer baggage into the valuable soul of each person I meet.

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Short Success Story

I. Love. Creating.  And I love it when an idea in my head becomes a success in reality.  It feels that there is no greater fulfillment than meticulously planning something and poring over it and sacrificing the time to make it just right, and then, in a magic moment--there it is.  Something that had ceased to exist, suddenly now exists.  I can't get over it; I can't get enough of it.  I know it's not always cheaper to make your own things, and certainly not easier, but the thrill of creating keeps me at it. 

The item of note, if you are wondering, is a sweet little ladybug skirt for part of Fia's Halloween costume.  I certainly don't mean to brag, as it is just a simple little skirt, not professionally constructed at all.  But it is cute, and I made it!  Pictures will follow in a day or two!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Giving, Taking, Life and Death

C.S. Lewis
The other night I was at my aunt and uncle's home for dinner, and we got on the subject of C.S. Lewis, since they had just gone to a discussion on him & his works.  I was quite infected by the conversation, as it brought a twist of new light to a common idea...That idea being Jesus' instruction, "Give, and you shall receive."

Lewis, via scholarly experts via aunt and uncle, suggests that Giving brings life, and Taking brings death.  The definition of "death" being something along the lines of "I am Me" (referenced aunt and uncle, correct me if I'm getting something wrong!)--inferring: a focus on oneself leads to debilitating selfishness and eventual self-destruction.  We were not created to be inward-dwelling creatures.  Evidence for this fact abounds.  But when we Give, we create goodwill and lovingkindness and bonds of friendship, and a host of other wonderful, godly virtues.  When we Take, or even merely focus on ourselves instead of others, we bring sadness, destroy relationships, damage feelings and step on beautiful, made-in-God's-image souls.

I've been thinking about this idea since the conversation we had, and it really does seem true: Every act of death, be it as small as a harsh response to an innocent child or as large as a terrible war, it all is based in selfishness:

"I am tired.  Therefore, I have the right to treat my children (husband, or whoever) harshly."  And I steal their joy and sense of security.
"I am poor and overly busy.  Therefore, I am not obligated to help others in need--they should help me!"  And I miss out on a life-changing opportunity to bless someone and in turn be blessed...for those who give, receive...blessings from heaven, packed down, and overflowing.
"I want to feel important and special.  Therefore, I will destroy that person's reputation and self-esteem."  And I kill those who could be friends, from the inside out, attacking their very being. 

(P.S. This blog entry, pardoning the poor word choices in parts, I thought was really great--refreshingly pointed, it put me in my place!)

We are focused only on our own needs and wants, so that they become so huge that they consume us, and lead us to disregard or be incapable of considering another's needs, and we become voracious, ruthless vehicles of death...often without even realizing it.  Our Wants, and even more deadly so our Needs, can become dangerous weapons, wielded at the hand of selfish introspection.

It goes the same even when the victim of death is our own selves, at our own hand.  Why do we feel insecure and beat ourselves over petty things?  We get so selfishly concerned about Me and how I am viewed by society (or whatever your vice is) that we bring death upon ourselves each time we don't measure up.  It is still selfishness, if you are bringing death upon yourself.

"...For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."  The rest of that verse, as quoted above (Luke 6.38).  Scary.  Convicting.

It makes sense.  Why do you think it feels so good to give?  Like it sparks some deeply buried fire of passion, the kind of passion we feel when we do what we know we're created to do.  We are, after all, made in the image of our Creator, and our Creator Gives...He gives Life, He gives Forgiveness, He gives Grace, He gives Everything we Need...He gives his only Son, so that whoever might believe in Him would not perish, but would have eternal life. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Chair

Jack had one of those testy-two's sorts of days.  In one particular instance, he'd done something that wasn't really a huge deal, but it was disobedient enough to warrant a time out.  If he had just cooperated, he would have spent one harmless minute in time out and been off to play as he wished, BUT...He kicked and screamed and refused to stay in the chair, so that every time he got out of it, the time out was prolonged by another minute (and some other forms of discipline may have been necessary as well).  He riled himself into quite a mess.

In the middle of our fifth time out, or so, I found myself speaking convictingly to myself as I instructed my son, "You are prolonging your discipline by your own disobedience.  If you would just obey and stay in the chair, the discipline would be over so fast!"

Too often I find myself constantly dealing with the same old issue and thinking, "Why is God STILL teaching me this?  I get the point!"  But maybe, I'm just not staying in the chair.
I'm going to try harder to be still.

Friday, September 30, 2011


Many apologies for disappearing from the realm of cyber-space these past couple weeks!  Life has gone from hard to impossible to unbelievably insane...I have been severely overwhelmed, and frankly, blogging hasn't even crossed my mind.  But, to fill the void until I'm back on my feet, here's a post I wrote while in Jordan but somehow failed to publish before we returned:

Over our time in Jordan I have developed several perceptions of Jordanian life & culture...I don't say "observations" because that might indicate that these things are unbiasedly true, which they may be, but I only am aware of my own perceptions.

So, without further ado, here is Jordan through my eyes:
  • They love to add their two cents to your parenting...even the men.  Every time I go out, the security guard or trash man or shop owners or random ladies have to comment that the kids aren't dressed warm enough or need their hat on or shouldn't be sitting a certain way in the grocery cart, etc.  They usually tell me these things in Arabic with a few Enlish words sprinkled in, so I just smile and pretend they're saying something nice and move on.  They aren't being not nice, just nosy.
  • They have no concept of respecting your personal "viewable" space...Not sure how else to phrase that, but the point is: People will stare at you unashamedly and continue staring even after you've spotted them staring, and will not look away.  If you try to stare them down into the submission of averting their eyes, you will end up having a staring contest--and you will lose.  This issue is always a bit disconcerting to me; it makes me uncomfortable.  It's very un-Western.
  • Gas prices are uniform at every gas station across the country, and prices do not fluctuate.  They have been the same now for six months, and counting.
  • Hair salons are called "saloons," and are for men.  I know that they have salons for women, but I have not yet seen one...Probably because they have to be private so that the general public is not exposed to the letting down of a woman's hair?  Men's saloons are everywhere, however. 
  • Stores have the funniest names...What would you anticipate is sold at a store called "Baby and Lady"?  To me, I would expect it to be a baby clothing and maternity store; but nope, it's shoes and bags!  There also is the "Whatever Outlet," "Needs Supermarket," the store advertising "Open 8 days a week!" (where are they finding an extra day each week??!!), etc.  There's also the "Ladies Fat Breaking Gym."  The "True Value Home & Garden" store, with the same font/logo as in the States, surprisingly is a toy store, with a sprinkling of camping and blow-up pool supplies.  I know this is juvenile, but our favorite store name is "Haboob."  
  • They still have real, old-school tailors and shoe smiths, working out of hole-in-the-wall shops packed with supplies.  I feel like I've traveled backward in time every time I see one, and I love it!
  • They don't seemed concerned with quality or presentation, but simply do things for adequate functionality.  I say this as a generality, and does not apply to every situation.  To their credit, they can rip up, grade, and pave a huge section of road in less than a day (where the same section in the States might take a week), and build a massive apartment building in a matter of weeks. 
  • People are extremely hospitable.  A taxi driver invited us to his house for dinner after meeting us for 5 minutes.  Sweet shops always hand out free cookies.  When shopping in the souk, almost every shop keeper offers tea, coffee, soda, water, etc.  
  • They seem to attach no gender value to colors.  I will consistently be asked if Safita is a boy or girl, even when she's wearing a pink outfit.  I also have noticed little boys dressed in purple, etc.
  • There are lots of Asian/Polynesian/Philippino nannies and housekeepers about that accompany their employing families out and about.  I've been told that Jordanians will not do this type of work and so they hire people of other ethnicity for the jobs
I'm sure there are things that I missed, but that gives a fun sampling of the colorful beauty of culture!  I am so glad that God did not make us all alike.

    Wednesday, September 14, 2011


    Hope is such a powerful thing...I think, it really makes or breaks a person, what kind of hope they have.

    Of course, our greatest hope should always be in the Lord, who will never fail and always exceed.

    And it is He who gives us the "life" hopes, the things that inspire us and ignite a passion and get us excited to wake to face another day.  The hopes, be they little or big, that fill life with meaning and purpose.  Hope really does lift one's soul like a balloon rising on the wind, away from bondage and care.

    Tonight, I am feeling hopeful.  It is a hope that is securely attached to hard, difficult work, but also reality--as in, my dreams can be realized, if I remain disciplined.  Here's my resolve: to grab hold of that balloon of hope and see to what heights the wind might blow!

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011

    Silver Lining

    This business of coming home has proven to be a bit of a turbulent landing.  We are struggling to find our feet and steady ourselves, but seem to just keep stumbling and bumbling.  I feel the wear acutely, and this past week it's been noticeably hard on the kids as well.  Very, very noticeably.  The struggle and insecurity of re-acclimating to a culture while being homeless and fatherless/husbandless and not knowing where you belong or what's going to happen or having a place and no means of's so hard on me, I can only imagine for them!

    The good news is, we have finally secured a place to live!  And it has a pool, which is thrilling Jack to no end.  We can move in on the 23rd of the month, which is still 10 days away, but sooner than what we'd originally expected.  This item accomplished provides huge relief! that now my mind can wander to the hundred other stressful cares needing immediate attention. 

    Most days, we feel (and act?) like we are falling to pieces, and my goal each day is to find some solace of normalcy.  But it occurred to me tonight--a nugget of wisdom gleaned from preparing the evening meal--if we're falling apart, at least it means we're tender.  We pray the tenderness will be productive and soon give way to satisfied souls. 

    Thursday, September 1, 2011


    Many have been asking lately, "How does it feel to be home?"

    Good question.  I'm not sure yet myself.  And I'm still trying to figure out, "Where IS home?"
    It's good to be back in America for:
    • an endless supply of any foods I crave, including garden-fresh produce
    • a whole country full of people who speak the same language I do
    • shopping where I know how to find deals
    • having our own stuff, and not having to fear "accumulation"
    • boat rides on the lake and walks in the field
    • quaint yarn shops with community knitting and crafting super-stores with endless inspiration
    • of course, being near family and friends
    • little conveniences that we take for granted & don't realize till they're missing

    It's also hard being back, and some of the reasons are strange:
    • The landscape is very lush and's beautiful, but strangely hard to get used to.  I'm kind of pining for southern California just for the familiarity in landscape.  It's crazy how the harshness endears itself to you...struggle creates the closest bonds.
    • Humidity...suffocating.
    • Driving is boring because people actually drive in lanes and obey traffic laws...having a hard time being okay with that.  I mean, I really shouldn't have to wait for cars to pass to pull out onto the road--fluid traffic, people!
    • I miss being mobbed with people coming up to pinch my babies' cheeks or steal them away to show their friends.  I miss perfect strangers treating me like a long-lost friend.
    • (disclaimer: this point is in no way intended to be directed at the people or places where I am currently located, it is merely a feeling): I feel enclosed and bound by small thoughts and small ambitions and single-paned ideas and safe actions...when I'm kind of ready to take on the world.
    • Homelessness is really, really hard.  It's been enormously hard coming home husbandless with 2 small children and a load of stuff, and just kind of float in limbo with no place to belong.  We can't unpack, we can't find things we need, we can't begin the process of feeling normal, we just kind of exist haphazardly.  And those of you who faithfully read my blog (many thanks!) know how important a place and belonging is to my emotional here's praying God answers soon!
    Well, that's all I can think of for now!

    Wednesday, August 31, 2011

    On Wings of Prayer

    A huge, heartfelt Thank You to all of you who were praying us home!  It was a hard trip, but I could tell that God was carrying us the whole way.  I'll give a little summary:

    We put the kids to bed at their usual time, then woke them at 10:25pm for our scheduled 10:30 drive to the airport.  Jack woke excited, and Safita happy.  Owen was going to drive us (me, the kids, and my brother Sam) in our rental car with all the luggage, but the luggage kind of took over the car.  One of the other fellows from ACOR--James--turned out to be on our same flight to Paris, and offered to let us ride with him in his taxi, which was our first lifesaver.  The taxi driver wasn't terribly reliable, however, and showed up half an hour late, then proceeded to take the busiest roads out of the city and also drive between 10-20 km under the speed limit (which is extra crazy in Amman) the entire way to the airport.  We were seriously concerned we were going to miss our flight.  He kept trying to have us promise to call him when we come back to Jordan, but I was like, "Yeah right!  As far as I can help it, I will never use you again!"

    Owen helped us inside with the bags; it was sad to say goodbye.  We went through the usual chaos of unpacking & undressing then repacking & redressing for security, and got to check-in to meet Sam there who informed me (somewhat frantically, since we were so late) that I needed to repack all my bags because they were overweight.  He had checked in with a different person, however, and much praise to the Lord, the lady who checked me in let the extra kilo or two pass with no fee (and no repacking of bags!).  I think people are kinder when they see you laden with children.

    Immigration provided more excitement, when we discovered that our visas had only been extended through August 25th instead of the 30th.  I'm not sure who was responsible for that, but there was a fine and they only accepted Jordanian Dinar cash...which I didn't have, because I left it all with Owen.  If I'd had to find an ATM to get the money, we would've missed our flight.  But, exactly at the right moment, our friend James had seen me at the cashier's counter and came to see if everything was okay, and without even being asked whipped out some cash to save us.

    We went through another line of security and made it to our gate just in time to board.

    The first flight to Paris was about 5 hours...Safita fell asleep right away, but Jack was too excited and waited halfway through the flight to sleep.  I had to wake him to get off the plane.  Both of them were exceptional. 

    We arrived in Paris at 5:15am to face a long 8-hour a very uncomfortable airport.  People had warned us that the airport was cold and there was no food.  We found this to be true, with one exception: there was food, but it was so overpriced who could pay for it?  A small bottle of water for 5 EUR (a little over $7 USD), a small slice of pizza for 6 EUR, a small piece of lasagna for 10 EUR, etc.  Also, going through security, a businessman wasn't watching and tripped over Jack, and instead of apologizing for nearly hurting my small child, looked at me angrily like "how dare your child get in my way" and started chastising the security personnel in French.  Oh, French people.  This incident was my first culture shock different than children-loving Jordanians.  The kids did not sleep at all during the layover but were in surprisingly happy spirits, for being tired and having no food.  Jack occupied himself by playing with his toy airplane and climbing on the furniture, and Safita just hung out contentedly.  They made themselves giggle every so often.  The time, fortunately, did not drag on endlessly as it sometimes can under those circumstances.

    For the Paris-Detroit flight, the boarding line was ridiculously long, but to my delight I was waved to the front of the line.  Flight attendants on the plane swarmed me to help me get settled...which actually was a bit overwhelming at the time and caused the kids to become stressed out and both were wailing uncontrollably.  Jack also disappeared  shortly after we got to our seats, and we discovered him across the aisle making himself comfortable at a nice window seat.  He was heartbroken that he wasn't allowed to stay.  Sam did not have a seat next to us on this flight, but it worked out okay as the people next to us (in the 4-seat middle section of the plane) were a sweet, young, Indian couple who proactively helped me with the kids the entire flight.  The girl was the sweetest thing, even Safita went to her and stayed with her while I changed Jack's diaper in the bathroom, and never cried.  They even advocated for me with the flight attendants to find me a space where I could spread out with the kids instead of being cramped there, but to no avail.

    On this flight, after we'd gotten settled, Jack curled up in his seat and fell asleep before the plane even took off.  Safita fought it a little bit longer, but was asleep shortly after takeoff.  Both slept for a solid 4 hours, and then were happy and good for the remaining 4.  The flight attendants were so helpful, as well--one of them even took the time while serving a meal to open all of the sealed coverings on the food for me, because she saw that I had no free hands.  At one point in the flight, I was feeling so moved and grateful for God's goodness that I couldn't help but weep.  Upon landing, everyone around us gushed with compliments about the children, how beautiful, how good, how happy...and someone also said their mother was a saint, ha ha, which was kind and nice to hear. 

    We got through customs fine, and a porter was there to help us with the bags; one bag was missing, but we're hopeful for it's quick return.  We got some dinner, then the kids and I fell right to sleep for the 5 hour drive to my parent's home.  Amazingly, the kids also slept normally through the night and seem to not be struggling with jet lag at all.

    Truly, God has blessed our trip.

    Sunday, August 28, 2011

    Last Hurrah!

    If I haven't mentioned previously, my "little" bigger brother Sam has been here the past 10 days or so, which is why I've been mostly absent online.  We've had fun showing him around Jordan, and it's served as a good time for the kids and I to say "farewell, Second Home!" and get a bunch of cultural cravings out of our system one last time.  Harried traveling is always a great way to rid oneself of those pesty nostalgic feelings that make it hard to move on. 

    So today, we made a last dash to the Dead Sea for a little float time.  The weather was perfect, the sea was warm and buoyant, the shore trashed (as one would only expect, by now!) but the water crystal turquoise and beautiful.  The air smelled of sulfur, but it was very pleasant.  We all bobbed up and down in the creature-less water (which makes it extra relaxing, if you don't have to worry about hungry sea creatures sneaking up on you).  I kept wondering to myself if it was a regrettable mistake to bring the kids in on the experience, but I'm happy to report that--other than a mouthful of sea water for Safita and of course some sand and rocks--everyone came out unscathed and delightfully crusty with minerals!  I was worried about the kids rubbing their eyes with their hands, or something of that nature, but they did well. 

    Safita, tasting the dirt; Jack, checking out her reaction before digging in himself

    the swirls of all the minerals

    salt/mineral formations on rocks on the sea bottom

    Friday, August 26, 2011

    On A Personal Note

    It's one of those seasons of life, for me, when the path is lonely and leads always, unyieldingly uphill.  The path is so narrow it seems to impose itself upon me, offering no choice of direction.  And when I think I've reached the steepest part, I struggle over, to find yet one more summit steeper still.  Sometimes, the way just seems impossible.  Sometimes, I just feel stuck.  But I know that God still leads, and I know that these are times of strengthening.  I've been told, quite often, that I am strong, but truth be told, I am tired of striving to be strong.  Sometimes, I just want to rest. 

    God is good, and somehow, we'll make it through.

    Tuesday, August 16, 2011


    Over the past 6 months, I have developed a voracious appetite for Middle Eastern fabrics.  The ones I bought before are pretty, but nothing about them is terribly Middle Eastern.  However, to my great delight, a friend recently introduced me to an amazing little cluster of shops in the souk, and I feel satiated.  The shops are teensy-tiny, like standing room only for about 4-5 people, but they're packed with goodies.  Don't get me wrong--there are oodles more I would love to get my hands on, but for now, this will do.

    Saturday, August 13, 2011


    Turkish baths are something that have always intrigued me, though for some reason I have never actively sought out experiencing one. 

    Today, however, I was invited to go...and, having been given Owen's blessing, happily took advantage of a much-needed break from 24/7/365 mothering and a chance to pamper myself in the company of friends. 

    It did not disappoint.

    After stripping down to the bare essentials, you pass through a small doorway to enter the baths.  This first step is amazing, especially if it's your first time experiencing a Turkish bath, because it transports you to an era long ago...How do I describe it in words when it's all about atmosphere?

    Here's my best shot: There is one central vaulted ceiling, pierced by a scattering of small stained-glass skylights, which highlight the alluring, lighted, raised stone hot tub below it.  The tub, filled with warm, crystalline, turquoise waters, practically glows, as if it's perfectly aware of the beautiful union unfolding above it...the union of its own warm, rising mist intertwining itself with the soft green, red, blue, yellow lights sifting down through the stained glass above.  The sight is mesmerizing.  Surrounding this central focal point are numerous other sections, the whole room open yet separated into cozy areas by a series of arches and vaults (though none as high as the central vault).  These areas house marble slab tables for exfoliation and massage, showers, a warmed marble bench, and saunas.  The entire bath is dimly lit by ornate hanging iron lamps (which I am desperate to get my hands on!), which play off the flirting steam and cast patterned shadows to dance upon the walls.  The focal point of the whole place, by layout as well as by lighting, is the warm pool in the center.

    The way it works is this: You first rinse off in the showers, then head to the sauna to relax.  There are 2 levels to this vaulted, stone sauna--an upper and a lower.  The upper section has a visible steam cloud that descends lower as it gets hotter, and is at least about 20 degrees "warmer" than the lower section.  Being stone, the steam collects on the ceiling as condensation, and drips extremely hot water periodically, which keeps you alert!  After a few minutes, a lady brings a tray of iced hibiscus tea to aid in hydration.

    A soak in that glorified hot tub is next on the agenda...after which they call you out one by one for a full-body exfoliation.  This was a new experience for me: they have you lie down on an un-padded marble table (we decided it kind of felt like laying yourself upon an altar), then don their exfoliating mitts and scrub away, with intermittent rinses from water that runs nearby (in troughs? I'm not sure, I forgot to look).  It was shocking, really, what came off!  But boy, was our skin smooth afterward! 

    The highlight came next: a full-body olive oil massage (again on one of those marble tables, but this time padded).  At the end, we showered off, received a Dead Sea mud mask, and finished it off with another sit in the sauna. 

    I so badly wish I could have taken pictures, but due to the nature of the baths, it just isn't...well, be taking pictures.  It was interesting to me, however, to discover that there is just one bath area, and they have separate hours for men and women.  I assumed they would have 2 sections and be open to either gender.  At the place where we went, the women's hours are in the day, and the men's hours are in the evening.

    I envision another Turkish bathing experience in my future.

    Thursday, August 11, 2011


    An Addendum to yesterday's musings...

    Those of you who suggested I do something creative/artistic--you are spot on! You must know me well, or else have great intuition. That is exactly what I've been mulling over. I am currently pondering a seedling of an idea, but am far from a concrete business plan (if anyone has a good one, shoot it my way!). The trouble I find, however, is that I have way too many interests and it's hard to narrow down in which direction to specialize. Not that I have to do only one thing--it's perfectly possible to have your hand in many pots, but in order to do it well enough for my own personal standard I need to at least choose a direction.

    And, along the way, I'm continuing to fine-tune my discovery of who God has created me to be...

    (And yes, I am fully aware that God's plan for all of us is to glorify Him; as John Piper expounds the catechism, "The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever." I'm speaking specifically of discovering my own unique purpose, because, as I mentioned yesterday, we all are purposed for something. From God's own mouth, via Jeremiah 29:11, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" I am talking about seeking God in effort to claim that hope and future. I am talking about finding my God-given passions and talents, and investing them and expressing them in a way that would both glorify God and maximize my personal joy...since I think those things go hand in hand, even if they're not mutually exclusive.)

    Just for fun, I wanted to write a list of my conglomerate of interests (in no particular order)...This list is by no means exhaustive, and fyi, it includes things that I want to do as well as those that I already have my hand in:
    1. writing (particularly some sort of children's books, maybe?)
    2. editing
    3. linguistics and translation
    4. archaeology, historical geography, and ancient languages
    5. sewing/crafting/creating (includes knitting & all associated crafts)
    6. designing things to sew/craft/create
    7. re-purposing old/useless things into new/useful things
    8. cooking and baking (always wanted to go to culinary school)
    9. cake decorating (also would love to go to pastry school!)
    10. gardening & preserving
    11. painting (as in, creating art)
    12. photography
    13. music (piano, mostly)
    14. woodworking/furniture making
    15. construction & handyman skills
    16. auto mechanics
    17. accounting
    18. hairdressing: cutting & styling
    19. massage therapy
    20. midwifery
    21. traveling
    Have you noticed that the things that excite me most deal directly with motherhood and caring for a family? It's fitting, and makes me happy. I love how God gives us the talents and passions for doing what He calls us to do.

    I think I had a breakthrough yesterday while reading my usual blogroll, and realizing that every time I read these certain blogs I am filled with some indescribable burning passion and feel positively bubbling over with excitement, creative ideas, hope, inspiration, an unbearable's so hard to describe, but it's a very good thing. These ladies are living my hopes and dreams, some of which I had realized and some of which I hadn't, but there they are. And seeing someone live it successfully fills me with burning excitement and anticipation to get my own self on that path.

    And that path demands a sewing machine. I must acquire a sewing machine ASAP. My research is done, and I've already got one picked out. To me it's more than a machine: it's a symbol of--for once--being able to clasp in my hands those lifelong hopes and dreams that have become so elusive; and in a sense, it is a symbol of freedom. It embodies the amazing fulfillment of being able to create something beautiful from nothing (we are, after all, made in the image of Someone else who loves to do that).  My wonderful, supportive husband assures me we'll find a way...which I interpret as 3+ years of saving every penny from birthdays and Christmas...In the meantime, I'm just going to believe him: we'll find a way.

    P.S. If anyone is interested, following is a list of some of those afore-mentioned blogs that inspire me to speechlessness. These ladies are sweet, modern, fun, and stylish (well, as far as I can tell from their blogs!), and they make beautiful things. I'm not even sure how I happened across most of them, but...Without further ado, here they are:

    Wednesday, August 10, 2011

    Created to Be.

    I've mentioned before our difficult family-of-a-PhD-student status...which causes me to continually search for some sort of work I could do from home to supplement the income.  My primary goal (to which I am committed) is to be an attentive, available mother to my children.  But it would be nice to not live on pennies...or less (!).  Contradictory to the need, I am very picky and particular about what sort of work it would be: it must be flexible, something that could be fit into my day whenever I have time; it must be profitable, since I really don't have time to dally around with unimportant things; and most importantly, it must be something I love to do, because life is hard enough and I don't need one more thing to dread every day.

    These thoughts, sprung out of need, lead me to musings of this question:

    What are we created to be?  What am I created to be?

    The question itself inspires me, even as it stands, unanswered...It's amazing, first of all, that I am created: intentioned, lovingly molded, purposed...And all things purposed, by nature have a purpose!  The purpose..."to be"...Is it enough simply "to be"?  I absolutely think so, but I also think we should zealously pursue that particular state of being which brings us overflowing, uncontainable joy and inspires our own creativity (which has as many modes as there are people in the world).  That's the sort of being that our own Creator intended, that we live in the fullness of His joy.

    And wouldn't it be great to be blessed to have work that rejuvenated you and continuously re-inspired you and fulfilled you, rather than draining your energy and life?  I am hopeful to find this.

    Friday, August 5, 2011

    Prayer Songs of the Saints

    Tonight I was rocking Fia to sleep as, one by one, the various minarets within listening distance to us lifted up in song their calls to prayer.  The vibrato of a man's deep voice pierces the air, echoing across the neighborhoods, its clear tone commanding the attention of all.  Shortly, other lone voices join in--some near, some far, each beginning its song on its own time and cadence, each melody slightly unique from the others.  The voices blend together imperfectly, with tune uncoordinated...yet, somehow, melodic.  The sound used to grate on my nerves, but I've grown to appreciate these melodic prayers as convenient reminders to myself to make prayer a priority throughout my day.  The calls to prayer, these days, still grab my attention, but in a calming, relaxing, thoughtful way.

    As I listened tonight, rocking my peaceful baby in my arms, I wondered if the imperfectly beautiful music I was soaking in was similar to how our prayers sound lifted up to God.  Our souls as single spires, calling out the song in our hearts--be it plea or praise--each beginning our songs in our own time and cadence, each melody slightly unique from the others.  I imagine the songs echoing across the vastness of God's holy dwelling, earnestly requesting his attention.  I like to think that together, our voices blend imperfectly...and yet, somehow, melodic.

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011

    Crescent Celebrations

    Ramadan has begun.  It's interesting experiencing it here, in a Muslim country.  For the most part, life goes on, but there are some things that are unique about this month...

    The biggest way it affects us is in the changed restaurant hours.  With the majority of the country fasting during the day hours, restaurants open late, if at all.  We were hoping the American chains would be open somewhat more normal hours, and thought we had success when we called Applebees and confirmed that they opened at 6:30pm.  However, when we got there we were informed that they are open, but you cannot order food until 7:30pm.  Disappointing.  Lacking hope, we wandered next door to Fuddruckers, just to see if we would have any luck there, and they welcomed our "Are you serving food?" selves right in!  We sat, we ordered, we played in the play area, and then we  w a i t e d ... We soon realized that nobody in the restaurant was getting food, and then noticed a kettle of broth-like soup being served in the middle of the restaurant, assumedly for aiding the transition from fasting to eating.  Then just before 7:30, the kitchen grills finally sizzled to life.  We'd been had. 

    The night Ramadan began and the following day, the traffic was horrendous.  But since, it's really been quite light; the roads feel empty.  We've heard that places open late but then are open until 2:00am, so maybe everyone is just going out later...which is certainly fine with us!  We'll take easy roads any day! 

    Everyone has their Ramadan lights up outside their homes and stores, and it kind of makes me feel like Christmas.  Minus the moons. 

    And speaking of moons, the one tonight was spectacular: a perfect crescent!  I can see why they've chosen it as their religious symbol...It hangs so delicately yet stalwartly in the night sky, a sliver of light that emits hope for future fullness & wholeness, the symbol of a new beginning, a small shadow that emits a great light.  It's commanding of attention and respect, and snags your captivation on it's crescent hooks.  It's a beautiful world our God has created.  

    Sunday, July 31, 2011

    A Happy, Harried Day

    We decided to tackle a shopping trip today, to the main souk (market) in downtown Amman.  It's less of a "souk" in the sense of open-air market and more of a centralized shopping area with tons of tiny shops all crammed back to back over several streets.  The shops seem to be organized by items sold: there's a street of scarves, a street of clothes, a street of toys, a street of mechanical needs, etc.  The main goal was to find the street of fabric shops...we did not find a whole street lined with said shops, but we did find several within a close vicinity, and got some beautiful prints (well, we think so, at least!).  I'm excited to delve into these projects when I get home!  I was hoping for a few more Middle-Eastern prints, but the ones available were...well, kind of ugly.  Oh well.  I'm happy with what we came away with. 

    sheer fabric...perhaps matching skirts/dresses for me and Fia?
    sheer undecided something for Fia
    turquoise seems to be a popular color here, and I love how they use it; this is not quite what I had in mind, but I'll use it!

    The fabric store shopkeepers were all middle-aged men, which was funny but not out of place here, and added to the fun experience of buying fabric in another country.

    We also happened across an amazing little store called "City Rose Souvenirs"...wish I would have thought to bring the camera, because the store itself was a delight to the eyes.  And the prices were so reasonable!  We found a trove of treasures from our "Jordan wish list" there, and had them all piled up at the front counter, ready to pay...when we realized to our horror that the money we thought we had brought was not, in fact, anywhere to be found.  As we were scrambling for what to do, we asked if they could hold it all for us while we went to get our money and come back.  It was extra confusing because our day was already jam-packed and there really was no time for coming back.  They counter-offered that we should just take it all with us, and come back to pay later.  No matter how many times this happens, it always takes me by surprise--it's so trusting!  We offered to just leave it all there until we came back, or to give them the money we did have, or to leave our phone number, but they refused it all and insisted that we just take our purchases and pay later.  Amazing!

    my favorite buy: it's a hanging candle-lamp
    isn't is gorgeous?  and so reasonably priced!

    It took us 2 hours to wind our way out of downtown, a combined issue of terrible traffic and getting lost.  For some reason, we can never seem to find our way out of what I've come to think of as "the black hole" (city center).  And then I thought, it was extra trusting of those shopkeepers to have such faith in us that we could even find their shop again!  Maybe they thought of that after we left, as they did seem happy (surprised, even?) to see me again.  But thanks be to God, I did; and even more thanks to God (and the shopkeeper's directions), I found my way out in about 5 minutes! 

    The days here have been over 100F lately--sweltering!  So today we had a refreshing invitation from some friends who work at the US Embassy in the swanky part of town to come swim with them at the embassy pool.  The embassy is like a fortress, or a town to itself, and everything inside is kept up really nicely.  After a harried (though good) day, soaked with sweat, it was delightful to dip into the refreshing water and just float awhile. 

    Thursday, July 28, 2011

    The Driving Dance

    I've mentioned before some of the quirks of driving in Amman and in the Middle East in general.  The crazy and seemingly senseless "rules of the road" (or should we say lack of rules!) has recently again been making an impression on me, and so I am inspired to write a list of all the crazy things we've observed people doing (and have even done know, we've got to try to fit in!):

    not a great example, but it's all I've got!
    • Driving is very fluid, much like driving a boat.  Individual cars, lanes, and traffic general just kind of float about with no rigidity or constrainment of lanes.  It is quite common for cars to create their own lanes, wherever they might wish to drive.  
    • Driving is very aggressive and requires you to be constantly on the offensive.  It actually reminds me quite a bit of a video game, where things keep flying at you out of nowhere and you have to be quick on your feet to dodge all the assaults. 
    • Dodging the pedestrians can be more of a challenge than navigating crazy cars.  There seems to be no thought for cause and effect of one's personal in, "If I step out right in front of this quickly moving car, it will have to swerve to miss me, which may cause it to hit another car," etc.  That's right.  Pedestrians.  They are a huge problem.  As aggressive as cars drive is as sauntering as pedestrians cross the street.  They just step out and mosey amidst the traffic without looking, loitering about in the road while cars whiz by, not caring that they might be in the way or creating a hazard for themselves and others.  It's like the road is their favorite place to hang out.  I've watched a person or two saunter out right in front of a car, then just kind of stop and hang out there in the car's way (all on a busy road, mind you), and when the car beeps at the person to move, he will actually get upset, as if he--the pedestrian--has the right of way to loiter in the road. 
    • Speaking of right of ways, I have not detected that any exist.  The right of way belongs to he who has the most chutzpah.
    • Cars often seem to appear as if solidifying from mist out of the mere pavement...This situation results from a couple of behaviors: 1) cars parked on the side of the road will take off with no warning directly into oncoming traffic, they do not look before driving; 2) cars entering a road from a cross street do not stop and look before entering the road, they just kind of barrel out.  The point being, again: traffic is fluid.  No one stops.  Not even when they should.  Everyone just adjusts. 
    • It is a regular practice for cars to back up into oncoming traffic, especially when reversing out of a parking spot.  Sometimes they will drive in reverse a surprising distance against the flow of traffic.  Sometimes they will drive the wrong way in a one-way.  Everything goes. 
    • The trouble is mostly that most businesses on main roads have no actual parking, so the cars are essentially parking willy-nilly on the road, often a few cars deep.  I've seen a whole line of cars parked right in the middle of a heavily-used road--can you imagine driving along, and all of the sudden just stopping and parking your car in the center of the road?  It happens here.  I guess, why not?
    • Traffic circles are really popular here, which is great...except that no one knows how to use them.  Instead of enabling traffic to move efficiently through an intersection, they most often create a quagmire.  For some reason, upon entering the circle, cars want to go directly to the inside lane, only to have to cut out through several lanes of traffic almost immediately.  It's a mess of confusion.  Sometimes, there are policemen directing traffic, but that only seems to make things worse.  Owen has discovered that if you stay on the far outside, you can take advantage of everyone's confusion and cut around them all. 
    • Brake lights are not required, and so at least half the cars on the road don't have them.  This is very hazardous. 
    • Blinkers aren't often used, especially not for lane changes (since, as we've discussed, there aren't really lanes in a functional sense).  In most cases, blinkers = weakness, and alert people that they can cut you off.  If they know what you're going to do, it's all the easier to get there first. 
    • On some roads, no one pays attention to red lights.
    • It is popular to use a turn lane to cut in front of a long line of cars.
    • Beyond the last point, it is also popular to go a step further and use the oncoming traffic's lanes to cut around both the line of cars and turning lane of cars cutting in front of the line of that the oncoming traffic has to squeeze through on their shoulder of the road.  Surprisingly, people don't seem to get upset by this. 
    • I especially love how they negotiate left turns so that 2 cars can turn left at the same time (much like 2 cars can safely turn right at the same time): At the intersection, the car turning left out onto the cross road will stay toward the middle of his lane, while the car from the cross road turning left onto the side road will cut to the right side of the other car...That sounds like a confusing description; but anyway, it works.  
    • Police don't pull cars over while driving.  They flag them over while stopped on the side of the road.  They also drive really nice Audi A6's.
    a traffic circle (not my photo)

    Driving is an art.  There seem to be no rules, yet everyone seems to know how to "dance" with traffic.  Those who don't "dance" and are too cautious are the ones in real danger. 

    Chaotic?  Absolutely.  Efficient?  The antithesis.  And yet, somehow, it works. 

    Some things about the way they drive I like.  For example, I like that we just look normal when we don't know where we're going and pull crazy maneuvers.  I kind of like the freedom and fluidity of movement, and that it's okay to pass slow people on the shoulder or in the opposing traffic's lane...I just hope I haven't picked up too many bad habits!

    Saturday, July 23, 2011

    One More Final Push

    Today was one last final push...Until the next one, at least.  As mentioned in the last post, the kids and I are helping Owen where we can with his survey work at Tall Safut.  Today is the last day of his survey permit from the Jordanian Department of Antiquities, and was the day he had planned to take pictures of the wall lines using a piece of equipment called the "boom."  It's really a handy contraption. 

    setting up

    We wrangled up another helper, another fellow working here at ACOR (thank you James!).  At 6:00 am, we rolled out to the site and started working.  Things went fairly uneventfully, thankfully...minus an injury free fall by Jack off a wall into some pokey bushes, and some decent sunburns by me (after I spend so much time putting sunscreen on kids, I feel done and forget to put it on myself). 

    Owen directing the positioning of the camera
    Jack and James at the other end
    a view from my perspective, as camera catcher in-between takes
    the big picture
    me and Fia, laying tape and catching the camera
    The morning was surprisingly cool, so Jack wore my nursing cover as a cape to keep warm, and looked super cool.

    Safita passed out and slept for a couple hours, which was fantastic.

    Both kids were exceptional for what must have been a really long, boring, difficult day for them.  Especially on days like today, I praise the Lord for giving us such happy, patient, flexible kids--without their hardiness, we really couldn't do what we do.  

    random people who were curious about what we were doing...and wondering if there was any gold

    Local people throughout Owen's time surveying this past week and a half keep stopping by asking if there's gold at the site...It doesn't help that his GPS equipment kind of looks like a heavy-duty metal detector, and it also doesn't help that today we were going around putting X-marks on a bunch of stones.   Hopefully we don't come back next year to a tell pocked with looting holes!

    checking the pics
    Jack was a big helper
    and so was Safita--she helped me hold the pole!

    We finished the picture-taking a little after 1:00 pm, at which point the kids and I drove James back to ACOR and got a snack before returning to Safut to pick up Owen, who stayed behind to take some GPS points and finish up.  Things took a little longer than expected, and we didn't get home until a little after 3:00 pm.  It was a long haul: breakfast at 5:30 am, lunch at 3:30 pm.  But, this very important survey project is now complete!  Another very rewarding accomplishment to check off...and one step closer to that coveted PhD in hand! 

    Finished!  Descending Safut with the rest of equipment in hand.  Can you tell he's tired?