Pressing On

Hi. It’s been a while. For quite some time I haven’t felt I had anything to share. It’s not really true because we are always learning and changing and therefore there’s always something to say. However, sometimes I feel that I have nothing of significance to say. But I realize that in reality that is pride because I am here to honor and glorify the Lord and when He is at work that is always something I should share. It’s not about me. It’s about Him. This past winter has been very hard. In Lebanon winters can be beautiful but also hard. Isn’t that a lot like life? People don’t go out as much because it’s SO cold! And we just moved in the past few months to a place that’s colder than where we were. I have to confess that this winter brought some pity parties and some meltdowns. Why am I so far away from my family? Why do I STILL not feel comfortable speaking the language here? Why is it so cold? Why can’t I just be more content? But I realized that though I am ever changing and struggling; God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He wants me to bring my mess to Him and leave. it. there. No ifs, ands or buts. He wants it all and He makes something beautiful out of my mess.I saw this the other day on my walk and took a photo because it immediately spoke to  me. So many times things in life: struggles, changes, difficulties, they seek to strangle  our joy and choke us so much that we can’t focus or grow. But out of the difficulties  and sometimes pain, life still blooms, joy still comes and God is still good. If we leave  our burdens at His feet, we have to leave them there. We can’t decide that later we  might need to come back and get them because He isn’t taking care of them the way  we think He should. No. We must leave them alone and TRUST.

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This picture was also on my walk the other day and it took my breath away to see this cross in the middle of these bushes on this mountain. What a poignant reminder of where I need to leave my burdens but also a reminder that I can rest in my Savior and know that He is pleased with me. photo 2

Winter is ebbing away and the sun is starting to come out more and more and I am soaking in the sunshine. I went for a walk today and was just amazed at the beauty around me. What a big God I serve. I have to press on towards the goal and on the journey rejoice in the ways He is molding me to be more and more like Him. I am grateful for this journey and I pray that I will move through it with grace and confidence knowing that He is by my side always.         photo

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Bondage and Victory

Lately I have been dealing with many thoughts. Some consuming, some fleeting. I have prayed and then tried to be busy and forget these thoughts, but they just keep coming back. I know I have been given a gift, actually each of us has. And it is our responsibility to use that gift for His glory. But of late, I haven’t been accepting of my gift as I should. My gift is mercy and service. I feel things deeply for others and I put them before myself most of the time to the detriment of myself. I know this is not right, and there is a balance, but often I don’t keep that balance in check and that is when fatigue comes over me. Recently I realized that this is a form of bondage. I keep myself tired and then end up resenting the very gift that God gave me to use for good. He has been molding and shaping me to realize that with each gift He gives, there is a bondage side and a victory side. I have been living in the bondage side of my gift and not the victory side. Let me explain….I can live to serve and care for others and show them His love and then rest and let Him replenish me and keep serving, or I can give and give and give and never allow the replenishing to take place, thus leading to bondage to my own gift. He wants me to rest, He wants me to trust Him and look to Him for my needs instead of trying to meet them myself; ultimately, He wants my obedience.

It has taken me a while to process these thoughts and even now I don’t feel I fully realize the extent of what He is seeking to have me learn. But I do know that all He demands is my obedience and devotion and through that comes all things. He has given me everything I need, EVERYTHING. And I don’t have to feel guilty because I “feel” I’ve disappointed someone. I don’t have to worry that I won’t be liked if I take a certain stand. I don’t have to be held captive by the Enemy’s destructive thoughts that I am not adequate or that I am not doing enough. I can rest in the fact that I am a child of the King and He is pleased with me because my heart desires to love and honor Him. There is a time for everything and sometimes that time is to rest and wait. Oh, there is that word! Wait. Never has one word, so small, caused so much turmoil in my life. I don’t wait well, in fact, I hate to wait. But the last few years have held a lot of waiting times. And I am realizing that these times are precious and oftentimes worth so much more than all the “doing” times.  In my devotion today, in My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, I read something that seemed to jump off the page at me. It said, “He works where He sends us to wait. ‘Tarry ye…until…’ Wait on God and He will work, but don’t wait in spiritual sulks because you cannot see an inch in front of you! Are we detached enough from our own spiritual hysterics to wait on God? To wait is not to sit with folded hands, but to learn to do what we are told. These are phases of His ways we rarely recognize.”

Wow! Really, Lord? Have I been spiritually sulking? Yes. Have I given in to spiritual hysterics? Guilty again. But isn’t it a blessing that His mercies are new every morning and great is His faithfulness. I am blessed that He gives me a new chance each day to obey Him. I do desire to wait patiently and to be busy while I am waiting. Lord, please show me how to wait on You in a way that glorifies You.

I am challenged to live in the victory side of the gift God has given me. And I determine that I will trust Him to work where I don’t see a way and that I will wait where He shows me to wait. His ways are truly the best and I know that I will experience true victory when I release my dreams, hurts, longings, frustrations and desires to Him. He sees the bigger picture and what a privilege to know He cares about me.

I pray today that you too will experience victory in your gift. That you won’t let thoughts that are not true consume you. Rest in Him, wait patiently, and watch Him work. He truly is able and He is enough.

Touching the heart

It has been a while since my last post and it’s not because I have been too busy to write but I have gone back and forth about what to share. It’s nice to have pictures and updates on what is going on in my life here in Lebanon and I will definitely continue to share these kinds of posts, however, today I wanted to share something that is weighing heavily on my heart.

Since moving to Lebanon I have been bombarded with news updates, articles and details about the war in Syria and the great impact on Lebanon as there are now more than 1 million registered refugees in Lebanon (there are many unregistered). At work, my job has consisted of reading these articles and helping to keep people in the States updated on the work our organization has been doing to help through our efforts alongside our partners and donors. The Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development (LSESD) has many departments and only one of those is Relief, however, we have seen relief efforts bleed into all other areas due to the current crisis in Syria.

Today, while I was at work, I was reading on the website for United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and saw a document titled “The Future of Syria: Refugee Children in Crisis”. As I scrolled through this report I was brought to tears reading the stories and reported facts about the realities of refugee children as it relates to education, work, emotions and family. It was especially touching to me because I have volunteered at some of the camps and events for refugee children through LSESD’s Baptist Children and Youth Ministry (BCYM) and seen the faces of precious young ones who have stories just like the ones in the UNHCR report. I would encourage you to read through this report and pray as you go for the hundreds of thousands of children and their families who are displaced and literally living moment by moment.

I don’t write this to be depressing, please don’t take it that way, I just wanted to share some of the realities of the area in which I am living now and the great need for support and prayer for these refugees.

 

 

New Apartment Update!

Recently, I had several requests for pictures and an update about our new apartment. We were so excited to find out we should be able to move in early summer! Yay!! This experience has been so new for me; picking out tiles, appliances, cabinets, etc. But what a fun experience to share with my husband! We visit every so often to see the progress and sometimes I just stand in the rooms imagining what it will be like to be there in OUR home and being able to have people over and all the memories yet to be created. God is so good!
The home is beautiful, the workmanship and the design but the surrounding area is also beautiful for which I am so grateful. There are trees around us and nature and it makes me feel so at peace. I wanted to share some pictures so you can have a “tour” of sorts.  🙂

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This is looking into the kitchen from the dining room. We had a cutout made in the kitchen so we could have a bar for extra seating and to open up the kitchen so we can see the beautiful view. 🙂

Baabdat view balcony

This is the view we can see from the kitchen looking out through the dining room onto the balcony. I love that there are a few balconies at this apartment. Lots of outdoor living space which we will LOVE in the summer and fall especially.

 

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This is the kids’ room. I was really excited there is so much light in this apartment!

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This is the kids’ bathroom. I am really happy with the pattern. We chose black and white for both bathrooms. I like the silver pattern in this one.

 

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This is our room. I love the window!

 

Baabdat balcony

This is our long balcony that we plan to close in and make additional living space. It is beautiful and has this gorgeous view….

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I might just sit all the time and look at this view. It’s breathtaking!

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We go pretty often to see the progress and I always like to take a photo op. 🙂

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Even the husband has to stop for a photo. 😉 This is in our entryway. Isn’t he cute!

Baabdat entrance

This is the door that was put in recently. It’s still in plastic wrap but I love the color of the wood!

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This is the back of the apartment where we will drive in to park under the building. The terraces will be planted and I think they will look lovely when they are finished.

There have been a lot of decisions so far about the apartment…what color should the tiles be, how to design the kitchen, what color cabinets, do we want gypsum board, etc. It has been fun though and I am excited to be there and make it our own.

We hope that our home will be filled with family and friends. My hope is that when people enter our home they feel the love of Christ and they feel at home. Relationships are the most important thing we have in this life and I want to make sure we welcome others and provide a respite from the busyness of life.

So, welcome to our home!

Is Winter Over Yet?

Winter in Lebanon is a curious thing. We had news that this winter could be the worst Lebanon has seen in 100 years. However, so far, we have had only one short bit of bad weather. I am not complaining; I’m actually very grateful it hasn’t been bad. There are many reasons I am grateful but one in particular is that I am not very good when it comes to cold weather. What I have found here though is that even if the actual temperatures are not very bad the cold that is here seems to be a damp cold that just lingers. Maybe it’s because the homes are built to hold in the cold because the summers here are so warm or maybe it’s just that the heating systems are so different from those I was used to growing up. Either way, it is hard to get used to the cold that settles in my bones and never seems to leave. I have become accustomed to wearing layers and always having a blanket when I am at home, or simply never taking my coat off when I go anywhere. Often, if I am home during the day I wear my coat! I am very grateful to have a roof over my head and a heater. I would never dream of complaining when there are so many who are struggling to make it through the winter with much less. I simply want to share about what my experience has been during the winter since it’s my first in Lebanon.
On a lighter note, we went to have my car washed the other day and as we were sitting in the outside waiting area (on one of the warmer days in winter), I smelled something that made me think of trips to the zoo when I was young. I looked around and couldn’t figure out from where the smell came. Then I turned to my right and looked up and saw this.

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That’s right, a monkey. Now, you may ask, why is there a monkey in a cage at a gas station/car wash? My answer, I have no idea. It was the strangest thing! The monkey had Lebanese bread in the cage and some candy wrappers so it has a very interesting diet. It was huddled at one point in the corner of the cage under a jacket, then when it saw me watching, he came out and started running back and forth in the cage and jumping up on it. I think at one point he smiled at me too, but I was never sure if it was a smile or a grimace, like he wanted to jump at me. Yikes! Anyway, it provided good entertainment as we had a long wait that day. My husband told me later that if I wasn’t home one day and he wondered where I was he would come check at the car wash to see if I was with my new friend. He would. ☺
A couple of Sundays ago we were thinking of where to eat for lunch and I told my husband I had seen a sign for Chili’s somewhere when I was out one day. I asked him if he knew if there was one in Lebanon and he said yes, that he had been to one before. I wanted to say, WHAT, there is a Chili’s in Lebanon and you NEVER told me?! I LOVE Chili’s and used to go there quite a bit when living in Atlanta. My mom and a friend usually go there once a week for lunch and every time she tells me she’s been there I feel homesick for Chili’s. So, that particular Sunday I had my Chili’s fix. It was SO good and tasted like a little piece of home. I also found out they do have Chili’s famous chips and salsa and though we didn’t get them that time, we will definitely get them the next time!

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Things have been quite busy for us lately, one reason why it has been a while since my last post. But I am happy to have a routine and feel a little more settled each day. We are looking forward to moving into our more permanent home hopefully in the next few months!
Recently, we had a lady visiting us at my office from the States who is an educator in South Carolina. I had the privilege of accompanying her to a school in the mountains in Lebanon for Syrian refugee children. I had been to the location of the school many times but never during the week when it was in session. What an eye-opening, humbling and amazing experience it was for me! There are 147 children attending from grades K-4. The subjects are Math, English, Arabic, Geography, Science and History. Most of the children in attendance have been out of school for 2 or more years as a result of the war in Syria. They are all so happy to be in school again that the principal shared that they have very few absences. I was mostly an observer the day I went. The friend who was with me read stories in English to the children with the help of a translator and the children just listened with rapt attention. I was overwhelmed at the need for education these children have. The school is doing what they can but desire to do so much more to help the refugee children and their families. Please keep these precious children in your prayers as well as the teachers and the principal and all those involved in making this school possible. If you are interested in knowing more about the school and/or the relief work that is going on through the organization with which I work, please let me know. There is still much to be done!
God has been working on my heart to be more sensitive to His leading in opportunities to serve that might be right under my nose. I am ready to be a part of whatever He has in store and long to make a difference where I am placed. I have had the opportunity to sing at a couple of churches since moving to Lebanon and am thankful to be able to use this gift again. I have missed singing so very much and pray that there will be many more opportunities open up soon. I am humbled and thankful to think of the place I am in now and how there are so many needs right in my own backyard.
Please pray for us as we seek to be available to where the Lord is leading us to worship on Sundays and to be involved during the week. We want to be used and know that God will direct in His perfect timing.

Preparation for Life

Coming into a new year usually prompts reflection on the old year and anticipation of what is to come. It seems everyone does this at one time or another and makes resolutions to be healthier, more successful and happier in the New Year. Since 2014 started, I began to think about my life and not just this past year but looking back over my whole life. I turned 32 this year and though that is not old by any means I felt I had enough years to think back over the changes that have taken place and where I am today compared to my childhood, teens and 20s. As I reflected, I began to realize there was a pattern to my life and to how the Lord has worked in my life and prepared me for each step of my journey with Him. I moved a lot growing up. And when I say a lot, I mean a LOT. Until I was about 15 I had never lived in one place longer than 3 and a half years. My dad was in the ministry and we moved from church to church throughout the years as his ministry roles grew and changed. As a kid this was sort of an adventure. We were homeschooled so there wasn’t really the trauma of being uprooted from schools for which I was grateful. However, when I reached my teens it was no longer really that “exciting” to move from place to place. I found it difficult sometimes to want to make friends or try to invest in activities or people because I wasn’t sure how long I would be there. Throughout this time though, the Lord would prepare me emotionally before each move. I remember when I was old enough to realize this was happening. It was clear when we would be reaching another move because I would feel a bit restless and ready for a change. Then I would hear from my parents that we were moving and I was already prepared in my heart to go willingly. Don’t misunderstand; it was never easy in the sense that it was always hard to leave friends and places in which I was involved. But I never seemed to struggle very long with a discontent of being in a new place and having to make new friends. As a result of moving so much, I feel that I had a great preparation for life. It is never easy to put yourself out there and hope people like you. I am naturally more introverted and I had to learn to go up to someone and introduce myself. This doesn’t come naturally to me. It is still hard and I would much rather be a listener and observer in a crowd instead of the one starting the conversation. But I have learned that if you want to have friends you have to show yourself friendly. Often this means making yourself uncomfortable at first in order to be comfortable and at ease later. These lessons have stood me in good stead all my life and each new place I went I was able to put these into practice with great success. In our moving adventures my family and I met a lot of interesting people and have seen some beautiful places. We had a lot of friends who were missionaries and friends in all different kinds of business and ministry. I always felt that my world was large and open and I longed to travel more so I could experience for myself the places I had heard about from friends. When I was 18, my parents sent me to Europe with a friend as part of a larger group for my senior trip. It was probably one of the best times of my life, seeing such wonderful sights for the first time. I was so happy! This trip opened up a desire in me to travel more but it wasn’t until I was 29 that the Lord opened up the door for me to go overseas again, this time to Lebanon. I went with a group from my church and I fell in love with the country and the people. My mom told me later that I came home and said, “I could see myself living there”. I had never said that about any other places I visited. After this trip, I was praying I could go back the next year but the Lord had other plans and I went to Thailand on a women’s mission trip with a different church. This experience was wonderful! I loved Thailand, the people and the food. This was yet another experience of getting out of my comfort zone and loving on people I didn’t know and sharing God’s love with them. I learned that a smile goes a long way! Over the next few months I began to seriously talk to a man I met on my mission trip to Lebanon in 2010 and thought was just a friend. We had begun talking not too long after I left the mission trip but I didn’t feel any romantic interest in him or feel that a relationship could go anywhere if started. The Lord had other plans in His way to prepare me for the life He desired me to live. Through a series of events, I lost the job I had at the time and went through a period of searching and asking why. During this time, this man was always there as one of my biggest encouragers and simply as a wonderful friend. Over time I began to think that there might be something there deeper than just a friendship. We kept talking and in the summer of 2012 I went to visit him and his family in Lebanon. I was there for 4 weeks and on the 3rd week we got engaged! I went home the next week with a ring on my finger and my heart full of plans for our future. We discussed things over the next few months as we planned for our wedding. I decided that I would be willing to live in Lebanon as that was where my fiancés job was and again, I felt the Lord preparing my heart and He gave me a peace that otherwise could not be explained. In April 2013, I was married to an amazing man that God gave me and we started our life together in Lebanon in May 2013. I am so blessed and feel so privileged to be a part of a story larger than myself. God prepared me all my life for change, moves, uncertainty and being uprooted. He showed me He was with me each step of the way and that He is ALWAYS there and ALWAYS faithful. I am so excited for what this New Year holds and though it isn’t always what we would call easy, life with Him is exciting, adventurous, beautiful and challenging. photo

With a fond goodbye….

Today is the last day of 2013. Wow. There really aren’t enough words to express all that has happened in this last year. I went through a lot of changes. Things are good though and I am looking forward to see what God has in store for me in 2014. I am thankful that I can look forward to a New Year since I know the One who holds the future.

I have promised several of you that I would blog about Christmas in Lebanon, so here is the promised post. 🙂

Christmas in Lebanon is beautiful! There are lights and decorations pretty much anywhere you go. Here are a few pictures that I collected that are all from different towns and areas of Lebanon.

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This next picture was from our drive back from my brother-in-law’s place in Zahle on Sunday. There was much more snow a week or so ago. Hopefully I will get to see more soon. I love snow! As long as I am not stuck in it. 😉

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We had a lovely Christmas Day lunch at my husband’s parents’. As usual there was SO much food. And lots of desserts! I did some baking for the occasion as well. 🙂 The pictures at the top are of the Christmas breakfast I made for me and my husband. I made scones that my mom always makes. They were so yummy!

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The next pictures are of the baking I did for Christmas lunch. I made “buckeyes”. The yummy peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate. I kind of messed up the dipping so I just drizzled the top of all of them with extra chocolate. 😉

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My birthday was just a couple of weeks ago and my sweet husband bought me flowers, a watch and took me to a wonderful Italian restaurant. What a fun evening! He’s a keeper!

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Christmas morning, we opened our gifts to each other. I got a beautiful coat and he got a sweater and some cologne. It was a nice morning spent together. Our first married Christmas. 🙂

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Let’s watch the old year die with a fond goodbye

And our hopes as high as a kite

How can our love go wrong if

We start the new year right? – Irving Berlin

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And Happy New Year!

May His love and grace fill your heart with joy this new year as you go forth with Him trusting each step of the way. Lots of love from our family to yours!