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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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Advent Calendar

I made an advent calendar this year for the kids and I to go through.  I used paper towel tubes, cardboard and packing paper, and home made flour glue.  A little bit too much work, but I wanted to try making my own glue, and the kids Love poking through the paper each day!  I organized little activities through out the month, so we do a craft or read a new book or make cookies each day.  It has been fun!  We haven’t done every craft or made cookies every time our calendar told us to make them, but that’s ok.

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One of our first activities was to make a festive garland for our arch. Myka did a great job helping me loop and tape construction paper.  Putting things up around the house in addition to having an advent calendar helps us remember what season it is.  It’s easy to forget Christmas is coming.  There are no store displays, snow in the forecast, or sweaters being pulled out of storage.  We are going outside more because it’s cool enough now, so it feels more like spring!  I’m glad I thought ahead and put some reminders in place so we don’t forget what we are really celebrating.

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A Christmas Tree (of sorts)

Today our advent surprise was our felt Christmas tree!

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I used thumb tacks to hold the tree to the wall.  I had to use one of the pillars because the other walls are concrete, and I couldn’t use thumb tacks there.  And then I cut out the ornaments which are also felt, so they stick right onto the felt tree.  I set it up while Myka was spending her afternoon quiet time reading books in her room.  Then she got to come out, open the advent calendar for the day, and play with the ornaments.

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She loved it!  We didn’t open the advent calendar yesterday (Emery’s birthday celebrations kept us busy!), so he will get to open that one when he wakes up from his nap.

Which could be any second because the Stupid Fire Alarm is going off.  I like fire alarms.  They help keep us safe.  However, the one in our building goes off ALL THE FREAKING TIME when there is no fire, no smoke, no cause for it to be going off.  And it has called wolf way too many times.  The first time I gathered the kids up and headed out of the building.  I met my neighbor coming out of her house, but we didn’t see anyone else.  Now I sniff for smoke, and then go back to whatever I was doing, or rather I comfort my children who do not like loud noises unless they are making them.

Ahhh..it stopped.  Thank goodness.  And I think Emery slept through it.


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Hello again!

It’s been a long time. I feel a little guilty about not posting anything. But don’t worry, I’ll get over it. Writing this post will help. I still intend to catch up on all our past adventures, but for now I’ll just start with telling you what we are doing right now.

We are coming to the end of a very busy November full of trips and birthday parties and Thanksgiving and floods. That last one isn’t so much a ‘fun’ event as an exciting one. Here’s what our month has looked like:

First I took a week long trip to Washington state and Portland, Oregon. BY. MYSELF. !!! It was my first time flying internationally by myself. It was my first time being away from Myka or Emery for that long. And it was my first time back in the US since moving to Saudi Arabia! It was so relaxing to fly on my own. Soooo much easier then flying with children, and jet lag really wasn’t an issue. Now that I’ve had time back at home with my two lovely children, I realize once again how much I really do like them, and I promise to take them on many flights and adventures and let them travel with me even if it means I don’t get to nap or stretch out in two seats on the plane. (I really liked using two seats though….)

I missed Myka’s birthday. It was on the 6th, and I got home from my trip late that evening. I felt like an awful mother! She didn’t seem to mind all that much though. She got to blow out candles, and we had a little party for her after I got back. We didn’t have a party with lots of children, just adults and one other little friend. We had three other birthday parties to go to this month and that’s is plenty. And we all had lots of fun celebrating Myka turning four. She blows me away with the words she says, stories she comes up with, and her excitement about little things. I love having her around.

A week after I got back from my trip we all drove to Doha, Qatar. Another couple went with us, so we had a car full. It’s said that Doha is 5 hours away. That is a lie. That doesn’t include time getting through the boarder (where we had to pay about $30 per person to get into Qatar… Why?), or stopping for lunch… It took us 8 hours to get there and about the same to get back. Emery does not last that long in a car seat. We had a lovely time there though. We stayed for two nights, visited friends who live there now, got to see their new home, and did a little shopping.

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Saudi Arabia is a desert. We don’t have a dry heat where we live because we are close to the ocean, but it doesn’t rain very much. We had a couple little showers starting in late October, and I remember it raining more than I thought it was going to last January, February, and March. Just little showers though. But wow. This month has shown me that sometimes it RAINS in Saudi Arabia. It rained for days. Mostly just a light rain, but sometimes it poured. Because Saudi doesn’t get much rain the drainage system cannot handle this amount of water. And neither can our brand new apartment building. One day during a good down pour, our downstairs neighbor let me now that water was leaking in their living room above the large windows. I checked mine and it certainly was leaking! Not too bad though and some rags cleaned it up. Some workmen came and caulked things the next day. Two nights later the thunder and lightening woke Myka up and she came to our room for a little bit. I told Stephen to just go check the windows and see if they were leaking again. Windows were not the problem. Water was POURING from recessed lights in our living room. Here is a link to a video of our leaks:

I pulled out all our bowls and buckets and all the towels I could spare. Then I emptied all the containers a couple times. After about 45 minutes the rain (outside and inside..) slowed down. I left the buckets to continue catching drips and went back to bed. Rain in Saudi… I am so thankful that is the worst of our situation. The compound we used to live in completely flooded. Standing water in most of the houses there. And not rain water. Water mixed with sewage and trash. Oh gross. So sad.

A radar picture of the rain in Saudi when we were dealing with all our leaks:

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Last Friday we invited people over for a deep fried turkey dinner in celebration of Thanksgiving and Stephen’s birthday. Lots of delicious food! Turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, carrots, home made rolls, apple pie, another Amazing apple and pineapple dessert, pumpkin pie, and shoo-fly cake (Stephen’s favorite). We had so much food we had to invite people over on Saturday night to help eat the leftovers. Stephen made stock with the bones, so I’ll be making soup with the rest of the leftover turkey and carrots and will throw some other things in there. I am thankful for an abundance of food, a great grocery store that caters to us expats, and friends to share all these good things with.

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Stephen’s deep frier set up. The cardboard is to keep the flame from blowing out.

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On Sunday mornings we have an art class here in the compound. (Remember, Sundays are a weekday here.) One of the other mom’s in our building hosts it, and a lady comes to teach and brings supplies. We missed a couple of classes because I was away, then lots of children were sick, and then the teacher was sick, but we were back again yesterday. So much glitter. And paint and markers and glue… oh my. Myka loves it. Emery tolerates it for a little while and then he would rather play with the toys. Is that a boy thing? Just him? If he is awake he wants to be moving.

Today we walked to the grocery store near our compound for the first time. We went with two other moms. There was a total of five kids ages nine months, 2, 3, 3, and 4. One of the other mom’s said she pictures us as this circus: a whirling dust cloud with arms and legs sticking out, tambourines and drums making a tremendous amount of commotion. Yeah. That’s us.

Over the next couple days I’ll be getting our advent calendar made which means I’ll have daily activities planned for most of December. That is definitely more organized than I usual am. Ha! I’m really excited about it though. And we have Emery’s birthday to get ready for. I’m trying to teach him to hold two fingers up. He tries, and he might get it by his birthday.

And that’s been our November!

Now that the Ipad is fixed and the screen to fix the laptop came in the mail, maybe I will actually keep you up to date! I sure have a lot of catching up to do. There are so many pictures to post and trips to tell you about!

Just a couple random photos from this month:

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Myka, Emery, and a friend. There’s a football pitch (soccer field) here in the compound that we go to sometimes. It’s fenced in so I can close the gate, let the kids run around, and not worry about anyone wondering off somewhere.

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Myka got dressed all by herself. She is wearing a swimming suit under her clothes because they ‘keep her warm.’ At least it all matched! oh, except the headband.

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A random little alcove in our entryway = a perfect little seat for Emery!

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Myka received a doctor’s kit for her birthday. Now we all get daily, even hourly, checkups.

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Psalm 89:1-52

I receive daily devotional emails from The High Calling and today’s was titled “Advent Reflection on God’s Promise to David” focusing on Psalm 89:1-52.

It hit me right between the eyes, I could relate to what this message was saying.

If you’ve seen any of my status updates on Facebook you probably noticed they’ve been kinda grumpy.  One friend described them as “dark”.  Yes, they have been grumpy and dark.  I’ve been having a rough couple weeks. 

Over six months ago when I started the journey to the new job assignment,  I was enthralled with the idea of living overseas.  Working in an exotic location with coworkers from all over the world.  Exploring new places with my wife and kids.  I worked tirelessly to quickly complete all the paperwork, I prepared and practiced for my interview, and scheduled appointments right away so I wouldn’t delay the process of getting the new job.

So here I am, approaching Christmas. 

I have been here in Saudi Arabia for nearly 3 months.  The job is not exactly as I had expected.  I feel a little let down.  I am bored by what I do all day.  I feel underutilized and over qualified.  I was told this job required someone with 10+ years of experience and all I do is data entry.  I am often on the verge of shouting matches with others because I disagree with the process or procedures or lack thereof.   I struggle to keep a positive attitude and usually moan and complain to my wife and family via email and FaceTime about how horrible my time has been. 

I was whining to a coworker with quite a bit more experience over here than I have and he said I have 3 choices: 1. Suck it up and deal with it and change myself, 2. Try to get transferred to another department here, and 3.  Go home, maybe international work isn’t for me.

Then I read today’s devotional and God smacked me across the back of the head.

Long before Jubail, Saudi Arabia was a possibility, God put something on my heart and Kelsie’s heart, to live, work, and travel overseas.  We believe it is what we have been called to do.  We believe it is the career God has promised to me and the life He has promised to us.

“Praise the LORD forever! Amen and amen!” Psalm 89:52