Lebanon

Waiting…

I feel I am in a season of waiting. For a type A personality waiting is very, very hard. I like to “fix” things and make them happen. I even admit…dare I…that I like to control things. Now, I know that fixing and controlling do not fit into the character of a child of God so I am constantly a work in progress in these areas. There has been growth in both of these struggles and I am thankful that God doesn’t give up on me. But sometimes I just need a little encouragement to know that the waiting isn’t for nothing. And it seems that just when I feel I am too frustrated with the inability to fix or control the things for which I am waiting to happen, the Lord comes in with just what I need to sustain me. Isn’t He so good in that way? His mercies are truly new each morning and great is His faithfulness.

This season of waiting is pushing me closer and closer up against the Lord. And for this, I am truly thankful. He is the ONLY thing that sustains and lifts up and He is worthy to be praised.

In my devotion this morning there was a picture of us as a child learning to take our first steps. Even though we can’t run right away and we even may stumble and fall God isn’t angry with us and doesn’t yell at us or punish us because we can’t do it perfectly. No, He helps us, lifts us up and encourages us. So, when I struggle or fail or don’t do things perfectly the first time (type A rising up again) then I should give myself grace just like my heavenly Father does. In giving myself grace and learning to let myself fail and try again I will be better suited for seasons of waiting where things don’t feel they are going according to my plans. I can rest in the knowledge that God is still there right beside me and He sees the path out in front of me and has my future in His hands. It helps to sweeten the waiting.

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View from a garden in the area which my husband’s family is from. 

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Home really is where the Heart is….

I watched a movie today that really tugged at my heart. It was one of those days where I had a lot on my mind and just wanted to kind of escape for a bit. When it started I just thought it was a nice story but by the time it was over I was in tears.

The movie is called “Brooklyn” and it is about an Irish immigrant who goes to America in the 1950s. She soon falls in love and has to choose between the tugging of her heart from her home and her new life in America. The byline is “Two countries, two loves, one heart”. This resonated with me because of how I met my husband and how we wove together two countries and made them one heart as well.
What surprised me was how I related to the emotions of the character. She loves her family and her country but she also finds new love and connections in a new country.

When I moved to Lebanon it was so hard for me to leave my parents, siblings and friends. The aching in my heart hurt so much though I loved my life with my husband and wanted to fit in as much as possible in my new life. Well, it’s been almost 3 years and I can say that I really have come a long way and I really feel this is my home. I have been learning the language, understanding the customs and really falling in love with this country every day. My heart is wherever I am with my husband and no matter where we live, that will be home.

At the end of the movie, the words of the character stayed with me: “You’ll feel so homesick that you’ll want to die, and there’s nothing you can do about it apart from endure it. But you will, and it won’t kill you… and one day the sun will come out and you’ll realize that this is where your life is”.

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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

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.

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!

Pre-Christmas reflections

Christmas in Lebanon is a very fun season. There are lots of lights and decorations pretty much everywhere you go. I enjoy seeing what each shop will do for their windows and how each town and village has their own take on the Christmas season. In my next post I will have pictures to show you. 🙂

As I was reflecting on Christmas, and trying to believe it’s already that time again, I was reminded that I shouldn’t feel hurried this season and need to take time to rest and spend time thanking the Lord for the blessings of the past year. He has been so good to me. A LOT has happened this year. I got married, moved to a new country, started to study a new language, started to learn about being a wife and picking up new traditions in a new culture. I can tend to be very hard on myself and have a perfectionist tendency. However, this new journey I found myself on has done wonders for working at this flaw in my character. I have always wished I was more laid back and easygoing about life and boy does God have a sense of humor! He set me in the middle of a very easygoing culture with an easygoing husband. I am very thankful that I am on the way to learning how to relax more and not worry about the things that don’t matter.

God is good, all the time, and I know that He knows what is best for us. His ways are so much higher than ours (see Isaiah 55:8-10). As I look towards Christmas, I want to make sure I remember that though I have lots of “things” I would like to do to make this season “merry and bright”, the brightest light I can shine is the Light that is within me. My prayer for this Christmas and the New Year is to let that Light shine brighter and brighter so that is all people see when they look at me.

What is home?

 

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I am back from being away in the States visiting my family and friends. It was a good trip and I enjoyed my time so much. I wish I could have seen more people while I was there but the time was too short!
My sister-in-law, Diana, went with me and that was nice to have her there to get to know my parents and sister better and to spend a little time with my brothers as well.
Before I left for the trip, I was contemplating what it would be like going back after being married and moving. I wondered if I would feel strange being back in the house and if I would feel “at home”. I quickly discovered I fit right back into things and did pretty well remembering where things were. 🙂 However, something had changed. I no longer felt it was “home”. I started asking myself. What is home? What does it really mean? I miss my family and friends in the States when I am in Lebanon and I miss my family and friends in Lebanon when I am in the States. So, to me, this meant that “home” was really wherever my family and friends are. So, it is up to me to work at making both places “home” whenever I am in the States and when in Lebanon. Ultimately my true home is heaven and I know that when I arrive there I won’t feel out of place anymore. But until that day comes, I will work on making wherever I am the best home I can.