Tuesday, November 27, 2012


The milk comes in boxes and sits on a shelf until opened.

The view of the sky is cluttered with concrete.

The language is clucks and tsks, a bubble of noise all around.

And I miss America.

I miss home.

I miss my husband, my comfy chair, my coffee pot, my gardens, my wide windows that look out on green, my car, my English, my life.

There are no substitutes here for God, here in this strange and foreign place, a city of millions where I know the hearts of four.   There is nothing to run to when I feel lonely or afraid, no hobby or possession that will turn my head from what is simmering in my heart.

All the props are gone.

This bareness?

It is good.

For I pray earnestly to wake up at 7 and sleeping in is not an option when you've got an empty jar for a heart and only one Well to fill it.   I fall asleep with whispered murmurs, "By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me," and the small red Bible sleeps with me most nights in a bed too big for one, and the words within are gold, real gold, more precious than anything else I stuffed in that black canvas suitcase and brought across the ocean.

When have I last been this hungry?

My sister, she says it when we are huddled over coffee in the bustling downtown.  "Grace is the backbone of every woman left standing."  They are Ann's words, and now they are her words, her rally cry for this life that is a new kind of different and hard every morning.  A year in, and she stands with grace as the backbone and leg bone and every bone.

I can see the x-ray skeleton here.  I can see the grace so clearly, stark white against a black screen.  "There it is," and I trace the mercy all the way down this skin.  I'm standing because of grace.

Do I understand this at home?  I fill up with a thousand things that taste better than the Giver of grace, and I think they sustain. What have I been eating all those days?  Fake food, play food, empty calories, stuffing myself on everything but.  When all but the Giver is gone and I am still walking, still alive, to whom or what else can the credit go?

There He stands, the Bread of Life, and I know.  He is more than enough to fill a belly, strong enough to hold these bones up straight.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Day in the Life: Turkey

I'm settling into a schedule here.  Good for me and good for the little ones!  Here's a look at a typical day.

7:00 am

I pray that I will wake up at 7, and so far, God has been an excellent alarm clock.  :)  This part of the day is similar to at home - I find coffee as quick as I can and settle into my favorite chair for some Jesus time.  The kids don't wake up until 8 (usually!), but I have made a rule that if the door is still shut, they have to go back to bed.

Thank goodness for a French press and Starbucks!  I don't even drink Starbucks at home. My sister spoils me.

8:00 am

The kids are up and scrambling to be the first to the kitchen to "help" me make breakfast.  This morning it's muffins and fruit.

9:30 am 

Breakfast is over, and if we're all dressed by the time the tutor arrives, it's a success!  Rachel and Nathan retire to the salon for lessons.  (Salon is the word they use for living room here.  Makes their lessons sound swanky, yes?)  The little ones and I head to the office for school.

10:00 am

We read a few books every morning that cover animals, poetry, world legends, and science. Then they have some workbooks that we do together.  Drew is just in preschool, and Abby is in kindergarten, so my sister wants to keep school low key and fun for now.  Luckily, they both LOVE it and always want to do more workbook pages than they're supposed to.

Drew is learning how to write his name.  I love his bashful look.

11:00 am

Official school is over, but we hang out in the office for another hour or so...or for as long as they find coloring or another craft interesting!  Today Abby was really into cutting out snowflakes.  It hasn't snowed here yet, but we have plenty of snow decorating the office wall now.  And lots of little pieces of paper to sweep up...

While Abby deluges us in a paper snowstorm, Drew and I color.  He's a mutterer, always talking to himself or saying up the funniest things out of the blue.  Here is a conversation we had while we colored - 

D: Wawa, I dink da dish wanted da spoon just by himself.  So dey ran away.
Me: Oh, that was kind of selfish, huh?
D: Yeah, that was a naughty wittle dish.
Me: Yep.
D: But I dink dat's just pretend because dishes and spoons don't have faces in dis world.
Me: But do they in another world?
D: Yeah, I dink dey do in anudder world.  But not in dis one.

12:00 pm

We move into the bedroom now.  Only 1/2 hour left until lunch break, but we need a change of scenery.  The kids play restaurant while I put another load of laundry in for Rachel.  She does have a washer and dryer, but the dryer is slower than you can imagine (I think because it isn't vented to the outside?).  The rack is more efficient...

12:30 pm

Lunch!  Rachel and Nathan break, and Rachel whips up some grilled cheese.  We eat quickly, except for Abby who has decided that she doesn't like cheese.  What?  What kind of kid doesn't like cheese?  We're gonna have to work on this one.  


1:00 pm

Time for a quick trip to the park!  Rachel and Nathan's apartment has windows, but they all look out onto the neighboring apartment building.  You can't really see the sky.  I never realized how precious my view of sky, grass, and trees is at home.  I try to take the kids outside once a day, as much for my sake as for theirs.  

2:00 pm

Nap time!  Now I fully appreciate how precious these words are to young mothers everywhere!  Abby is hit and miss on her naps; at 5, she doesn't always fall asleep.  Nonetheless, she has to lay down for 30 minutes.  I check email, read, journal.

4:00 pm

The kids are awake from naps, and we play some games.  Drew is quite the card shark - please note the sunglasses - and can beat me honestly at Go Fish or Memory.

5:00 pm

Rachel and Nathan are done with lessons for the day.  I help Rachel start dinner, and the kids run circles around the apartment.  Okay, not every night, but a lot of nights.  :)  Nathan agrees to play their new favorite game: they are baby gorillas, or gruffalos, or foxes, or (insert any animal here that has struck their fancy), and he is the daddy.  They lumber around making the appropriate animal noises and think it is the best thing ever.

7:00 pm

After dinner, we put a little movie on for the kids and retreat to the bedroom with the laptop.  Oh yes, it is time for the adults to enjoy some Downton Abbey!  I introduced Rachel and Nathan to the series, and now we watch one a night.  Even Nathan is into it.  It's our nightly escape to a lovely alternate English universe.

9:00 pm

Nathan gets the kids ready for bed.  They sing a hymn each night before the Bible story.  I love hearing small voices belting out "Dis is my Fadder's world" with gusto. It's precious.  I head to the office to have my daily Skype date with my other half.  Being away from him is the only bad thing about this gig.  It sort of feels like someone cut my arm off.  

10:00 pm

I pull the couch out to a bed and sheet it up.  Time to sleep if I am going to get up with the alarm.  :)  This couch is from Ikea, and it is very comfortable.  Two thumbs up, Ikea.

And that's a day!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

my new life as a nanny

I made it!  I've been here almost a week.  Time is a contradiction here.  It feels as though a week has flown, yet the thought of two and half more weeks without my husband feels immensely long.

It is good.  It is hard.  It is sweet.  It is bitter.  Is it not always this when we go to ones we love but, in the going,  leave other loved ones?

My days are full of pretending to be a gorilla, reading Little Critter and Amelia Bedelia (the latter of which they both love, although nearly all of the puns fly over their heads), walking to parks, and making breakfast with the early three year old riser.  Excuse me, he's three and a half.  I forgot.

These little ones, they are changing all the time, but then again, they still pop out familiar as they did last May, two Septembers ago.  She still looks off in the distance when she's eating.  When you ask her what she's thinking about, the answer is nearly always about a part in a movie.  He still can't say his "c" sound, so candy becomes tandy and cars are tars but sometimes the "t" is hard too, and when that is so, turtles become do-dos.  

The tiny troops have awoken from their naps.  Duty calls.  And maybe some more Amelia Bedelia?

A trip to Ikea!  I told them to make their "I like Ikea" faces!  This is what I got and right after Drew whispered to Nathan, "But Daddy, I don't like Ikea."

Apple pie!  Yum!  

These are our fierce faces.  Don't mind the princess wand.  It's really a sword. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

the marathon

We did it!

We ran our marathon Sunday morning, finishing under four hours.  I thought there wouldn't be much pain difference between our 20 mile run a few weeks ago and 26 miles, but there is.  Wow, are we sore.  Aleve is our new best friend.

Not to over-spiritualize our marathon, but Aaron and I were talking about how Paul's race analogy of the Christian life is so accurate.  Nothing like running a long and hard race to really hit home his words in 1 Corinthians 9.  Gosh, we need people cheering us on from the sidelines.  We need nourishment along the way.  We need to fix our eyes on the prize.  We need to know that at times it will feel terrible, and nothing in us will say, "yeah, it's a good idea to keep going."  This is the Christian race.

But let me tell you, when we rounded that last corner and saw the big finish line banner at the end, tears came out of nowhere.  The knowledge that we were going to finish well and that my parents were waiting at the end, cheering for us as we stepped over that line -- that was a good, teary kind of beautiful.  Makes me think of Hebrews 12 and the great cloud of witnesses.  If it felt that amazing to finish a small, small earthly race, what in the world will it feel like to step over heaven's gate and hear "Well done, my servant."

Let's keep running, my friends.  The prize is so worth it.

On another note, Psalm 27 really encouraged me this morning as I thought about my flight tomorrow and the election -- two things that can really send me into a tailspin of fear.  Again, fixing our eyes is key.  For He is our light and salvation.  He is our confidence.  He is good to those whose hope is in him.  Our greatest delight is to see His face.  The enemy's tactic of fear desires to whisk those truths out of our mind and put a terrifying future in their place.  But that future is just not true!  Fear is just not true!

So I run truth through my mind like an endless tickertape.  I hope that encourages you if you are nervous about the election tomorrow or whatever else makes you anxious.  Find truth and cling hard.  He is our reality.

I'm not sure what posting will look like the rest of November.  I am sure you will hear from me a few times.  See you from across the pond!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Hi, I'm the one made in the image of God with awkward stains on her pants

This morning I went out garage saling and to the grocery store.  When I got home, I realized that I had streaks of dried waffle batter all around the crotch of my black yoga pants. 


Last night, we played Capture the Flag at Klub.  I get really competitive if I don't talk down my heart before hand (which I didn't last night), and I wrestled one of our college leaders to the ground and gave him a bloody scratch.


I bought four cans of pumpkin and four jars of peanut butter and four pounds of coffee to take to Rachel and her American friends in Turkey without realizing that with those small items, I'd just eaten up a fourth of my suitcase's allotted weight.  People, the expats need their pumpkin!!!

Packing fail.

I'm running a marathon on Sunday and getting on a plane less than 48 hours later.  Do you think I'll still be sore by takeoff?  Please vote no.


In the last week, I have seen two of our male neighbors outside in their briefs.  Not even boxers.  Would I make this stuff up?  

Wrong place, wrong time.  

Last night, I threw chicken and potatoes in the crockpot and covered them with the first two things I thought of: barbecue sauce and ranch dressing.  It actually wasn't bad.  Oh, the mercies of the crockpot.  

Can we call this carbo loading?

All this to say, it is so funny to look at individual cross sections of our lives.  From those six things, you probably think I lead a very strange existence.  Let's be generous and say quirky, okay?  

But then I think of the Louie Giglio video I watched with my small group girls on Monday night.  The fabulous, unbelievable thing is that all of us, each living breathing set of 206 dry bones, bear a mark of the Divine.  We're walking around with this huge weight of glory all over us, and we still spill our coffee and smell our armpits when no one is looking and wear that holey flannel shirt because it's comfortable.

Isn't that amazing?  

In all the everyday muck and oddity of life on planet Earth, there is a deeper and truer story.  I wanna be alive to the mystery of it, open to the wildness of it.  Isaiah 40 calls us grasshoppers, yet the Star-Breathing, Ocean-Gathering, Enormous God of the Universe sees our hearts and says we are part of something bigger.  We're not just set loose here for eighty years to swim through the crazy.    He's writing a Story, and He invites every last one of us weird, precious people to be a part of it.  To join Him.  

That is amazing.