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. 

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.

A story of waiting, surprises and love

On this last day of September I am feeling a bit reflective. Maybe also because my husband and I just passed the 5 month mark of being married. This may not seem like a lot but when you know our story you may see why each month I am more and more surprised and excited at how God works things for our good. I felt impressed to share this story as I hope it will encourage many and I know it will give glory to God and that is reason enough to share! 🙂
I have always loved to travel and see new places. Growing up as a pastor’s kid (PK) I was very familiar with missions and felt that someday I would love to go on a mission trip but wasn’t sure when or where. When missionaries would come to our church and speak, I was always fascinated by their stories and excited to see how God worked in and through them. I was always praying that God would show me what He wanted me to do with my life and how I could best serve Him. It wasn’t until 2010 that I had my first opportunity to go overseas on a mission trip. Beirut, Lebanon was my first trip and as I prepared to go with my team from church I was excited and a little nervous as I was going into the unknown. When we landed in Lebanon I actually felt at home and at ease. The people we met, the scenery, the language, everything fascinated me! I was so excited to just soak everything in learn as much as I could in the very short time I was there. We were all really busy while visiting and as we came for a children’s camp, it took most of our time and energy.
On the last day we were there I met a man that would forever change my life, though at that time I did not know this.
Let me back up a little. I have been a hopeless romantic since I can remember. Even as a little girl I remember being so excited to grow up, marry and have children. As I grew older, I felt there must be something wrong with me that I didn’t desire a career and couldn’t seem to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I went back and forth with several things in college, trying to decide what to study. I ended up with a Business degree because I felt it would be practical once I finally decided what to be when I grew up. 🙂 All I really felt I wanted to do was be married and have children and this kept coming up as each year went by and I wasn’t married. The Lord brought several men into my life that I had the opportunity to get to know and at times I felt that maybe this time it would be “the one”. But each time there was something that kept me from moving any further and the Lord’s voice seemed to say, “not yet, keep waiting”. Well, for those of you who know me, waiting is not easy for me. I am very impatient and want things to move forward and work out right away. But I find that with the Lord things are different and I know my ways are not His ways, and I am very thankful for that! So, the years went by and I kept working, going to school and waiting.
In 2010 when I went on the mission trip to Lebanon on the last night our team went out to eat as a group with the coordinator from Lebanon and she invited her brother to come as an extra driver for our group. He agreed and a friend of mine and I were the ones that happened to ride with him. When I got in the car I was kind of quiet as I wasn’t sure what to say to this stranger. After dinner I felt this guy was looking at me but I wasn’t positive….so on the ride home I thought maybe I should at least make small talk. Well, the small talk turned to a getting to know you time and we chatted about family and how he liked Lebanon, if he had ever been to the states, what he liked to do for fun, what his job entailed, etc…. After my friend and I were back to the hotel and getting ready to head with our group to the airport I felt the conversation I had with this man keep rolling in my head. When I got home, I friended several people on Facebook from the trip that I had met and this guy was one of them. He wrote me a message and this surprised me but we started corresponding. The relationship that developed was unlike any I had ever had before with a guy. Usually, a relationship with a guy entailed dating and then if it didn’t work out I just didn’t see them again. But this relationship started as a really wonderful friendship and we talked about any and everything. Life, church, relationships with family and friends, how we grew up, questions about the Bible and just life stuff. I found myself being excited when I would get a message from him and waiting each day just see what he would say. This was so foreign to me that my family immediately noticed and would ask if I was sure there was not more to this relationship than friendship. I would laugh and say “of course not, we are just friends, he lives on the other side of the world!” After almost 2 years of this I was on vacation at Christmas with my family and I received a message from this man saying he would like to get to know me as more than friends. I literally almost dropped my phone and my heart started pounding and I didn’t know what to say. I wrote back that I would think and pray about it. He agreed and after a day or so I told him that I would like to get to know him better as well. We started talking every day and I really was excited but still apprehensive because I just didn’t see how this could work out long term. As we continued to talk over the next few months, that summer, he asked me if I could come to Lebanon for a couple of months. I thought, seriously! two months? What is he thinking? And what if I get there and we don’t click and then what happens, I have to stay anyway? This seemed like a bad idea….yet I was still curious, what if? So, I prayed about it and decided I didn’t always want to wonder what if and so I agreed to come but just for one month. I packed my bags and headed to Lebanon. My trip was an adventure as I had some plane delays and a detour. Finally, after traveling for 24 hours, I arrived and when I stepped off the plane and saw him face to face for the first time in two years, I just felt comfortable right away. After meeting his parents and family I felt so at ease and welcomed that I was excited to spend the month there. We began sightseeing and spending time together and with his family and friends. I fell in love with the people and the area and loved spending time there. After a few days we began talking seriously about marriage and what it would entail if we decided to embark on this adventure. 🙂 I was excited and apprehensive at the same time, but knew that this was what the Lord wanted for me after much prayer and the time I spent with this wonderful man. We were engaged after three weeks of my being there and I went home with a ring on my finger! My family was very supportive and excited for me but there were so many details to still discuss and decide. Before we got engaged we did talk about the fact that I would probably need to move to Lebanon and this was a big decision, however, I knew that if I agreed to marry this man, God would work things out for our good. It might not always be easy, but it would be good. To make a very long, detailed story a bit shorter, when I went home it was so hard for me to leave this man I now knew I loved and so it was with a heavy heart that I came home and tried to stay busy planning a wedding. We decided to wait 9 months to give ourselves time to plan a wedding and continue planning for a place to live in Lebanon and the details of his visa to work themselves out. We were engaged in July 2012, married on April 28, 2013 and I arrived in Lebanon to live as a new wife the first week of May 2013. Much has happened in the 5 months that we have been married. But I see God’s sovereign hand in every aspect of our lives and know He will continue to be in control. I am so grateful that I waited for God’s best for me as this man is everything I could have ever wanted and more. He challenges me to grow, encourages my talents and loves me even with all my faults. We laugh together and have so much fun just being together. We are excited to see what the future holds for us and know that we are living proof that if you will wait on the Lord He has things for you beyond what you could ever have imagined. This is true not just in relationships but in any area of your life. He is faithful and can ALWAYS be trusted. May He encourage your heart today as you rest in Him.

Weekend fun

This weekend we had a full schedule. We drove to Ain Dara on Saturday afternoon in time for a wedding of a friend of my husband. The wedding was beautiful and I was excited to attend as this was just my second wedding in Lebanon. I was asked to sing at the reception and I was honored to do so. The evening was filled with food and music which made for a great night. I am not very good at taking pictures with people in them but I heard my mom’s voice in my ear saying “take more pics” so I asked my sister-in-law to take this one since we did dress up for the occasion. 🙂

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We spent the night in Ain Dara and spent time with my in-laws. It was good to visit with them. I am motivated to learn Arabic every time I am with them as it’s hard not to be able to talk directly to them. They are so sweet and a great example to us.

On Sunday, we went to church and then had lunch and left later that afternoon to head back towards home to attend my niece’s ballet recital. The venue was beautiful and she did a wonderful job! I was so proud. 🙂

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She’s so beautiful and is a natural ballerina.

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All in all, it was a great weekend and now we are starting a new week with new possibilities for adventure. Who knows what it will hold!

Q&A – As I mentioned in my last post, I am trying to make this blog more interactive. Someone asked me last week what was in a typical Lebanese sandwich. I mentioned on here before about an amazing sandwich I love to get when we go to Ain Dara. There are many other places to get a sandwich like this but I think this place, so far, is the best. There are many different kinds of sandwiches in Lebanon but my personal favorite is Taouk which is pieces of chicken wrapped in pita bread and toasted, then you add pickles, french fries, garlic sauce and usually a little mayo. It is so amazing! You can eat it in a wrap or they will put everything individually on a plate as well. So yummy!

Father’s Day and a weekend adventure

Hi! Happy Father’s Day (a day late) to my wonderful dad! Father’s Day in Lebanon is not until this next weekend but I definitely celebrated my dad from afar yesterday. It was hard not being with the family to celebrate but I am sure they made him feel special. Love you, Dad!

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This weekend we spent Saturday evening and Sunday in Ain Dara, my husband’s village. It is really beautiful and a nice place to spend the weekend as it is much cooler there than where we live. It was nice to get away and spend time with family. The weekend started off with sandwiches in the evening from our favorite place. It was super crowded!

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Then the next morning, of course, we had to eat again. 😉 We had a quick breakfast out on the balcony before church.

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After breakfast we attended church and had the privilege of hearing from two Korean couples and their children about a ministry to the Middle East that the Lord prompted them to start. They shared a bit and sang two songs. The kids were precious!

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After the Korean couples shared, the pastor asked my husband and I to come to the front so the church could pray for us and for our marriage. Then, SURPRISE, he asked me to sing “How Great Thou Art” and then the church would sing it in Arabic. It was a memorable Sunday. 🙂

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After church, we headed back to the house. We were hoping to eat light, however, when you spend time with family, that usually means you eat WAY too much food. We tried to convince my mother-in-law that she should not cook a lot and we could do something easy like hamburgers, but she loves to serve and love on all of us by cooking so here is what our “little” meal looked like. It was really good! 🙂

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Yes, that is not only one dessert, but THREE desserts. The large one with the peaches on top tasted a little like banana pudding. I have to learn how to make it, it was so good! I guess my diet and exercise program I’ve been talking about needs to start this week. Yikes!

After lunch we were all feeling like a nap was in order, however, some of us wanted to go off-roading. It was a beautiful day for it and I captured a few good pics of our ride. *Disclaimer – I am NOT a photographer so all the pics on this blog are very ‘candid’.*

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All in all it was a great weekend. I hope many more like this are to come. The journey is still ahead and I am excited to see what the future holds. Thank you for coming along with me. I will write again soon!