wherever you go


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God With Us

“It is hard to slow down and breathe and pray in this season. … The season I’m living in doesn’t much feel like the season of Advent. The season I’m living in makes it hard to prepare my heart for Christmas, to say the least, which is rapidly sneaking up on me. There’s not much I need more than a kick in the pants.”

This is a quote from my sister in law’s blog recently. Please read her whole post here:

http://schmexas.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/list-making-advent/

I think of the season of advent in two ways: the real advent which is slowing down, preparing my heart, and being with God and the other stuff like making snow flakes, baking treats, wrapping presents. Both prepare me for Christmas. And I’ve felt like I’m failing in both recently.

I haven’t done the advent readings I hoped to do, haven’t made crafts with the kids, don’t have the decorations made and hung up the way I planned, and we have no cookies to eat right now. That last one may really be for the best in some regards, but I’m feeling lost and sad and, well, behind.

For example, the kids were given some advent calendars with a chocolate for each day. Yesterday we opened numbers 11 and 12. It’s the 17th. So not only are these calendars a far cry from the homemade, daily verse and activity advent calendar we had last year (though I don’t think the kids mind getting a chocolate every day), I can’t even keep up with opening a little door each day.

And sometimes I just need to be a little more proactive. Sometimes I need a kick in the pants.

However, I’m choosing to be ok with the place I’m in right now. I want more, and I know someday we will do more, but right now I choose to not have advent be stressful. I’m finding the ‘more’ in other places like cuddling with my baby, playing with Emery, or napping when I need more sleep because right now those are the important things. Sometimes I forget how sacred the everyday things are, that God is found in those small, ordinary places.

I talk to Myka and Emery about Christmas coming. About Jesus coming and that we are waiting for him. Myka’s first response to that was, “he’s coming here?!” I love that. While I’m not doing daily readings with them, I think they are hearing the message during our various little chats.

Today, I am balancing the important and the urgent by ignoring the housework I ‘should’ be doing and making cookies with Emery ASAP. I need to hang up some laundry and chop up vegetables and start the roast in the crock pot (urgent things that need to be done right away), and then we can make cookies (which are important, especially to Emery). Making cookies is time for the two of us to do something together; it builds our relationship. I’ve been talking about them for a week and the housework or nursing Poppy or play dates keep getting in the way. But not today! Today I keep my word to Emery and we will make cookies. We won’t have as much one-on-one time over the next month or two while Myka is out of school.

Myka has school today and tomorrow. Then there is a three week winter break! And THEN we go to the Maldives for two weeks! That’s a lot of time with everyone together. I will have to get used to having three kids home all day, but I’m hoping we have some really wonderful time together. Maybe we will even read every day. And we might make some cookies.

More importantly, I’m hoping that our life slows down a little when I don’t have to have everyone ready to take Myka to the bus at 7:00. I’m hoping I have at least a couple minutes to myself in the morning to connect with God and my self, to just breathe and settle my spirit. Because just thinking about that makes me feel better. Because I want to take the knowledge that God is with us and have that be the reality of my day.

And what better time to embrace that than in advent.

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community = limited

Community can be defined different ways, and I consider my extended family, friends who live on the other side of the world, and even people I only know on the internet to be parts of my community.  But there is something about the people you can touch, eat with, and live with.  Video chat is amazing but it’s not the same as being able to hug someone or talking face to face.

We live in a compound in Saudi Arabia. My tangible community is limited to the people in the compound or people Stephen meets at work; it is very easy to only spend time with people I like and simply avoid anyone else. I cannot drive here (no women are allowed to drive), so I only go out with my family, in a taxi we’ve arranged with friends, or on the compound bus on a weekly grocery trip. Being on the bus is the only time I have to interact with people I haven’t specifically chosen to be with. Before we moved here I would have been around people at church or MOPS (a mothers of preschoolers group) or when taking a class at the gym. Those are great ways to meet new people but could also put you right beside someone smelly, rude, or overly friendly.  For better or worse, that doesn’t happen to me here. Sometimes I miss it and the people it would bring into my life, but it also makes each relationship I have here a bigger part of my community.

About a week from now, four of our friends will live farther away from us.  One couple is moving to a newer compound about half an hour away.  We’ll be moving there eventually (sometime this fall), but we have to wait for the construction of new units to be complete.  The other couple is moving to Doha, Qatar which is a 4.5 hour road trip or a short plane ride away.  Right now they are a short walk away.  The ladies come with me on our weekly bus trip and help with Myka and Emery.  They stop by some afternoons just to sit and talk and drink iced tea.  I will miss them immensely.  In fact, thinking about it has me tearing up, and that doesn’t happen too often.

However, that is the nature of where we are and this kind of work.  People come and go a lot.  We get plenty of practice in saying hello and goodbye.  Being intentional about community, about really having people be a part of our lives, means not holding back even if people are going to move away. It means getting out of my comfortable space – being at home, having my few friends – and building relationships that could be quite short.  But who knows…maybe some of these friendships will last a lifetime.  I hope so.

I pray that I’ll be open to new friendships, that older friendships will continue even with distance between us, and that my children will behave on our bus trips.


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Community

My sister-in-law writes about community and life in her blog Texas Schmexas (schmexas.wordpress.com). With a new baby girl at home she doesn’t have as much time to write on the blog and has asked several people, including Stephen and me, to contribute. So I started thinking about community and what it means to me.

Here are some of the things that came to mind:
Hospitality, build friendships, share life
Help and be helped
Because I love God, he loves me, I love the people around me
I bake too much and we need to share or we’ll get fat

We live in a compound in Jubail, Saudi Arabia.  There are many nationalities living here in the compound, often language is a barrier, and sometimes cultural differences seriously strain relationships (like loud music at ungodly hours…I’m not friendly when I can’t sleep or you’ve woken my children up).  There are no Christian churches here.  When we have moved before, finding a church was always a first step in building our new community.  But we’re figuring out what building community looks like here.  We focus on inviting people into our home, often for meals.  I send baked goods with Stephen to work.  We are kind and friendly to the workers here on the compound.  We have taught our children to be friendly, smile, and wave.  And we are finding where our boundaries are.

I’m excited to start being more mindful and aware of how community looks in our life here.  And I’m thankful that doing so will keep it as a priority when so often I can let it slip to the background, content to be at home with just our little family.  Plus, I really like baking…

I’ll post links to Schmexas when we write something over there.  Go read some of her past posts!  She is a brilliant thinker and a beautiful writer.


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“Christian?”

Today Myka, Emery and I took the bus to the grocery store and the mall.  It’s fun trip, I get some groceries, and Myka loves going to McDonalds at the mall.

This bus ride was a little more…dramatic….than others.  Just a slight amount of tension.  Someone was a little late getting back to the bus at the grocery store and her little boy was crying.  Other passengers were impatient to get to the mall and do their shopping there.  The bus was full.  Children were cranky (though not mine, thankfully).  It all just made the trip a little more interesting than usual.

But what was more interesting was a little conversation I had with a girl at McDonalds.  She was a teenager and was with a little girl in the play area in McDonalds.  I was watching Myka, Emery, and a friend’s little girl.  The teenager didn’t speak much English, but said, “America?” and I said yes and smiled.  In bits and pieces she said the kids were beautiful, that we were lucky to be from America, and asked the kids names and if they were siblings.  After a pause she said, “Muslim?”  That’s a new question. I said no.  “Christian?” I said yes and smiled.  That hasn’t come up before.  Right after that I was called to get my food, and when I came back she wasn’t there anymore.

New experiences everyday!

I should really learn some Arabic.


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Grace and lent and loving our family

I finally figured what it is that I’m giving up for lent.  I’m late (nothing new there..haha..), but I’m not one that has to make resolutions on New Years Day.  Every day is a new beginning!

There were a couple blog posts that got me thinking and helped me actually make a decision.  The first one that got me thinking was written by my sister-in-law, Liz.  You can read what she wrote here:

http://schmexas.wordpress.com/2013/02/18/turning-inward-turning-outward-staring-into-the-abyss/

I need to spend time letting God remind me about what is really important, letting Him change how I see things and respond to situations.  Lent isn’t about giving something up but about how giving something up changes you.  I’m giving up some sleep – something near and dear and very precious to me!  But I like how spending some time with God helps me respond with patience instead of frustration.  Because He responds to me with patience instead of frustration when I mess up time after time after time.

And then there’s this blog post:

http://www.aholyexperience.com/2013/02/of-women-sisters-family-how-you-really-speak-lent/

And if you read both articles you will see a link, a pattern. Grace.  Grace, grace, amazing grace.  And that’s lent. The time preceding the ultimate moment of Grace.

So what started out as finding what I’m giving up for lent really turned into a reminder of grace and love and how we’re all family.  But isn’t that what the point was anyway?

There is this memory of a young boy we saw the other day that keeps coming back to me.  He was walking through the stopped traffic in a busy intersection tapping on windows.  Tap tap. Tap tap.  That’s all.  Just tapping.  And looking.  And it broke my heart to think of the kind of life this boy must be living to be sent to walk through traffic asking for money.

The picture I have of myself with empty hands and nothing to give needs to change because in reality I have so very very much.

I read an idea somewhere about putting bags together with some food and basic toiletries and keeping them in your car so that when you see someone who is homeless or asking for money or food you have something to give them.  You are ready and prepared.  I want to be ready, prepared, and willing to give to someone who needs it.  So I’m going to put some bags together and take some with me whenever I go out.

When I was first thinking about lent my goal was to be more generous, more giving.  More loving.

I like the direction I’m going.