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.