Sunday, December 30, 2012

Me and Bilbo

We went and saw The Hobbit last night.  It was so much fun to go out to a movie with friends!  I don't love fight scenes and the scary-looking bad guys make it a little hard for me to fall asleep.  But still I loved it.  It captured my heart because I related to Bilbo so much. 

I loved how reluctant he was to adventure at first.  Gandalf says, "When did doilies and your mother's china become so important to you, Bilbo?"  (All quotes are my paraphrase!)  FOR gets comfortable so quickly.  I LIKE the schools, parks, churches, friends, family, walking trails, family activities in Alpharetta, Georgia.  I LIKE having a minivan to pile my kids into, no shortage of activities for the kids, endless playdates, and my furniture.  Just comfort, winds itself around my heart and settles in so quickly.  And then it gets so hard to leave.  Bilbo liked his life just fine how it was, thank you very much. 

In that same part of the movie, Biblo is asking if he'll come back.  Gandalf says, "I can't guarantee it, and if you do you won't be the same."  Again, I SO relate.  As you set off, you want to know the's gonna turn out ok, right?  But there just aren't guarantees.  Thus why it's called a leap of FAITH.  But yet he had a yearning for his life to make a difference.  And so (almost in spite of himself) he went chasing after the invitation to adventure.

But most of all, I loved how he was so ordinary.  Nothing extra special or stand-out-ish.  He just said yes.  And nothing was ever the same for him or the people around him.  And don't we all want that?  Just to see our regular little lives get to be used for the extraordinary.  Not every day here feels extraordinary, but at one point, I felt like God said that just my little acts of obedience matter.  So, see?  Me and Bilbo Baggins are practically twins seperated at birth!

Monday, December 10, 2012

early morning

This morning I woke up at 5.  Just wide awake and ready to get started.  I love when that happens!  Because (especially when I'm pregnant) that isn't usually the case.  At the first call to prayer my sweetie girl came out to join me in the living room.  She had a fever all day yesterday, and now it's hurting to swallow.  So I made her some hot tea with honey, and she's asleep on the couch by me.  The third call to prayer is just getting started!  I love that our family usually sleeps through them now. 

Now that it's rainy season, it's hard to get the laundry to dry!!  (We don't have a drier!)  This week I learned where in the house to hang it so that it dries in a day.  That's good news, but laundry is still a challenge for me here.  I know, I know...some people don't have washers, and I'm THANKFUL to have a washer.  It's just that I'm constantly doing laundry since it takes so long to dry.  Oh well. 

I've broken down and started using mosquito killer (you plug something in, and it fumigates the room.)  When Catie had 30something bites just on her face, I decided it was worth it.  The organic girl in me is slowly fading away. 

We bought a Christmas tree and got it set up.  I'm not sure if I'm more excited about it or the kids.  I love that they drag their blankets out and want to lay right in front of it. 

Our house has no central heat or air, and sometimes it is COLD in our house.  So the kids want to sit right in front of the soba.  Christmas tree + soba + pillows and blankets = bliss!

We moved to phase 2 of language learning.  We look at wordless picture books with our tutor and talk about what's going on in each page.  It's fun.  The hardest thing about language learning is feeling like I never give it enough time.  I want to, but the practical demands of the kids, chores, homeschooling, and 2 hours/day in class leave me very little extra time.  And when I do have some extra time, I want to hang out with John and watch a movie (like last night)!

I am learning the grace of God in my life like never before.  Because I'm really not very good at anything here yet.  But that's ok (at least most of the time...occasionally I cry)!  I'm really resting on the verse that says that in my weakness He is strong.  I know that nothing depends on me being strong or brave or good enough.  I just get to offer who I am, and He does the rest.

(side note--Jacob's quote with this picture:  "I'm not cute, I'm awesome!")

There's a song I love right now called "Alabaster Box" sung by Julie Meyer.  It says
All I am
Is all I have
And all, all I have to give
I give it all to You
It's my fragrant oil
It's my costly perfume
I take my alabaster box
and I break it open.

I love that just who I am...imperfect and enough!

Grace and peace to you today, friends!!

Monday, November 19, 2012

You might live in the Middle East if...

-Your kids love to build things in the yard out of old pipes, pine straw, sand, and extra tiles lying around.

-Your daughter learned the saying "I've got a gun, and I'm not afraid to use it" from you dad, but she changed it to "I've got a haroof (sheep), and I'm not afraid to use it."  Makes taxi drivers laugh every time she says it when we pass the "haroofs" close to our house!

-You've actually gotten used to sitting in the back of a taxi with all three children to go anywhere.  Even more impressive, your kids have gotten used to it!

-Taking candy from strangers isn't's an all-the-time experience. looking for another way to teach stranger danger.

-Your house is dusty again the same day it gets dusted.

-You hang laundry up to dry in your living room.

-You have lemon, apricot, fig, and mulberry trees in your yard.  (But you REALLY want to plant an olive tree...not for the olives...just to cut off branches of the pretty leaves for decoration in your house!)

-Your kids build houses in the yard for all the stray cats.

-Your shoes and the bottom of your pants are dusty most of the time.

-You wear your hair pulled up every single day.

-You get embassy alerts about not traveling to Gaza or Israel right now.  (wasn't really planning on it!)

-Your couches are so hard that they actually promote good posture.

-You get to interact with some of the kindest and most hospitable people who are so gracious as you butcher their language.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

In honor of learning Arabic...

We have been learning verbs lately (like for weeks).  And almost every one starts with a "b" sound.  In honor of mixing up our verbs, enjoy this...


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Getting more settled

Just wanted to catch you up on the last couple weeks. 
We've still been having arabic on weekdays.  We're making progress!!  It's fun to be talking a little bit more!
Some visitors from the US came from homebase of our company.  It was sooooooooooooo refreshing to have a little time with some friends and get some little surprises that got sent with them.  One of the men brought his daughter, and she played at our house one day.  All of our kids loved her, but Catie just soaked up the girl time!!  That week Catie was doing letter M for school, so they built a rocketship together for Catie and Jacob to fly to the moon.  Elise, thank you for blessing our family!!
Here's our family hanging out with some good friends and some visitors!
I've gotten a few more things hung on the kids' walls.  Zach said it makes it feel more like home. 
There are some friends here in the city who we know from the US.  They're here for about 8 months studying arabic and teaching english.  One of them is an art major, and he came over last week to do art with our kids.  They're counting the days until he comes next week!
Speaking of art, John found an art store not too far from us, and we went today.  It was FUN!!  Such an amazing place.  They have FELT and teal burlap.  You know, the important things!  :)  Well, I was super excited to see these...
And I started to feel silly for taking up space in our luggage for crayons and markers.  Until I saw the price tag...8.95JD!!!  That's $12.65 in US.  OH.MY.GOODNESS!!!  So, when you come visit, you know what I'll be asking you to bring!  ;)
But we did splurge at the fancy grocery store today and buy some pumpkin and cranberry sauce for Thursday.  It was about 3JD per can.  But worth it, I think.
You may have heard on the news that there have been lots of protests in our country this week.  We stayed home for several days, and last night and today started going out.  We haven't seen anything in our area of town, but we're not going downtown.  We're not feeling like we're in any danger, but we would appreciate you lifting up the stability of this country and region.  I'm so thankful for God and His Word.  For Truth to fall back on when the world around us seems uncertain. 
Well, I gotta run.  I've got FILTHY children, a messy house, and neighbors are coming over to visit in about an hour.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


This past week has been our best one so far.  We're feeling more and more settled.  I feel great about piling the kids in a taxi and knowing that I can get where I want to go...but more importantly knowing that I can get back home!!  Some folks from TX came to our city and brought us some surprises from friends and family!!!  Really, there just aren't enough exclamation points to communicate my excitement!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Construction paper, baby gifts, REAL vanilla extract, surprises from my mom and dad wrapped in cute packages.  Rumor has it that more suprises are coming with someone else who gets here tomorrow, so there might be a part 2 to this post in the near future. 

One of my VERY favorite foods in the world is this corn mixed with black beans and avocado.  We were at a grocery store the other day, and they had it!!!  I bought 3 bags and they're happily sitting in my freezer waiting for the day we have a microwave that works.

Found this beauty at the mall the other day.  My house smells AMAZING!
We also saw this sign at the mall.
WHAT?!?  Menchie's is our family's favorite fro yo spot in Roswell, GA.  We were super pumped, so I took the kids up there for an afternoon surprise one day last week.  But once we got in there, we found out that here it costs about $1.40/ounce!!!!!  We each got really small ones, but it still cost about $25.  Soooooooooo, we won't be doing that very often, but it was a fun suprise!
So thankful for each of these encouragments and just wanted to share them with y'all!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Camping trip!

A couple weeks ago we went camping with our amazing new friends...Chris, Bekah, their 4 kids, and Jessica.  We had a blast!!  The other night at dinner we were talking about our favorite thing in this country so far, and this trip was Zach's pick!
We got to watch the sun set in the desert as we drove there.
We cooked chicken and veggies over the fire for dinner.  And s'mores and dump cake for dessert!
Jacob conked out in the bedouin-type tent!
We woke up the next morning to the beauty of God's creation!  We had lots of time for walking, exploring, trying to catch lizards (one ended up in Catie's hair!), climbing on rocks, hiking, and having fun together!
(can you find our friend, Jessica, in that picture above?!?)


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Ahlan wa sahlan {Welcome!}

This has been a long holiday weekend around here.  Today we went to eat breakfast with some friends and then to a bird park.  In general, people here LOVE kids!  Jacob has learned to milk this for all it's worth.  When he is hungry and sees someone with food (I'm talking about strangers at parks!), he walks up close to them and looks at them with big, pleading, friendly eyes.  And every time, he scores food.  One day some guys in their late teens/young 20s gave Jacob and another 3-year-old friend each a twix bar.  Today he got some bugles and 2 pieces of pizza off people.  I try to interfere and say, "No, he is fine."  But people say, "Oh yes, take it."  It's kindof hilarious and very kind, but I think I have finally learned that I need to take food everywhere we go and have some to share.  I love that it opens doors to meet people, though!  : )

If you want to see the street that leads to our house, here's a little video I took of that a couple weeks ago.  My parents had asked to see what our street looks like, so I took it for them.  The "seeds" Jacob shows me that he wants to plant are olives off an olive tree.

I hope you enjoyed the little tour!!  : )

Friday, October 26, 2012

language and more

I wanted to give you a peak at our language time!  It's really fun and makes my brain TIRED!!

John is doing SO great!! 

Last night we went to a neighbor's house.  It was a blast!  We got to visit with them, drink tea (that's one of the things I love here!), eat SUPER-sweet desserts, and just enjoy being with them! 
Their college-aged daughter has a new bunny, and the kids LOVED it!!  You should have heard their squeals and laughs!!  (Out the window in this first picture, you can see a white wall in the background with 2 lights on it...that's our wall!)
Our yard is pretty fun.  No need to buy a sandbox!
Front yard swing fun!
This week I've been processing quite a bit about how to thrive here.  Thank you SO much for your comments, FB messages, emails, skypes...I can't tell you how often they were so timely and brought tears to my eyes!  It helps me feel like I'm not alone in this!

Monday, October 22, 2012

catching you up!

Hi dear friends!  Oh, I've been a bad blogger for the last 2 weeks.  Overwhelmed mama + some internet issues have meant that I have not been keeping up here! 

2 weeks ago we started language learning.  2 hours/day each weekday.  The week before last was GREAT.  Then last week I added in homeschooling Z, and John started working more, and I didn't do so great.  Man, I'm being stretched.  I'd really appreciate your prayers...for me to know what God wants our days to look like, what homeschool should look like for our family this year (it's certainly not turning out to be my creative/artistic dream!!), for energy, that I'll learn how to give grace to myself, that I'll cling to Truth when I'm overwhelmed!!  I'm trusting that times of pruning are a grace from God and will reveal beauty in the end. 

We've had some house repairs that were needed...some pipes needed fixing, some rotted cabinets, a broken fridge.  But now everything is working!  We're in our house. I'm hoping to take pictures or a video and give you a tour soon. 

We had our first doctor appointment here last week.  Our doctor does an ultrasound at every appointment, and he saw that this little baby we're expecting is a GIRL!!  Here she is...isn't she a beauty?!?
There are so many things here that don't feel normal yet.  Like a donkey in our street (that was a fun one!), trying to communicate, taking taxis everywhere we want to go (we can't buy a car until we have our residency), and so much more!
Homeschooling DEFINITELY doesn't feel normal.  Doesn't this picture look so sweet and amazing?  That's the crazy thing about blogs, I think.  You can take a snapshot and make your house, life, parenting look perfect.  This was a super sweet moment.  But we haven't found our groove AT ALL, and we're trying to figure out what to do so that we can all THRIVE in this season of transition!
I'm thankful for friends here.  A friend who works for the same company we do gave me these sweet flowers the other day.  I can't imagine being here alone!  Those friends have helped us in a million ways to get settled.
We're also trying to keep things normal in other ways, too.
A date night!!
Cooking together (chocolate chip pancakes)
Family game night
Making Mimi's FAMOUS biscuits
Well, I'll try (no promises) to do better at blogging.  In the next few days I'm hoping to show you some AMAZING pictures of a camping trip we went on.  And a glimpse of our street.  And a peak at language learning.  Thank you for praying for us and encouraging us in these first weeks in a new country!! 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Here's a little clip I took in a taxi drive yesterday.  There are some sheep and camels on a corner close to our house.  You can hear the radio playing in the background.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

These are a few of my favorite things (so far)...

Today was a hot and dusty day!  It's hard to tell in this picture, but even the sky looked yellow.

We've been here a little over 2 weeks, and I want to share with you a few of my favorite things!

We are starting to learn our way around on a taxi.  Today we went somewhere new, and we told the taxi driver what part of town we live in.  On a road, we saw an exit that we knew would take us home.  John pointed and the man said, "no, no."  John said, "yes, yes."  So he got off.  At the next turn, the same thing...except he had already started his way, and we were so insistent that he backed up and went our way.  Well, when the road ended, we were right by our house.  The taxi driver gave John a big smile and said, "Very good!"  It felt AMAZING to know where we were going!
We've had some great time with friends.
I (Cristie) have ventured out on my own.  It was my only time alone for the past few weeks, and it felt GLORIOUS!!!  I went to Starbucks and sipped on a frappachino.  Except I got it without coffee because the guy checking out said, "no coffee?  it is MUCH better with no coffee."  I thought, "Am I at Starbucks?" 
We've adjusted to our new time zone and are sleeping well.  Speaking of sleeping well, we ordered some furniture and it should arrive on October 9.  Here's our new bed!

I love the Jasmine here.   It smells amazing, and you get little whiffs from time to time.
I love our house.  It's painted and is so fresh and nice.  Mattresses come tomorrow or Thursday, and then we'll start sleeping in our house.  The bottom kitchen cabinets were rotted out and nasty, so a carpenter came today and replaced them. 

These herbs at the grocery store smell amazing and are one of my favorite things.

We have great fruit trees in our yard!  Here's a picture of Catie in front of our apricot tree.  We also have lots of fig trees, a mulberry bush, a lemon tree, maybe a couple almond trees, and 2 mystery fruit trees.  : )  The kids love running out to water them!

We just met with our language tutor tonight and will start learning Arabic on Sunday.  (The work week here is Sunday-Thursday, and the weekend is Friday and Saturday.) 
Here's Jacob next to a drain.  These drains are so great!  I have one in my kitchen and in each bathroom.  You scrub everything down and squeegie the extra water down the drain.  Cleaning is way easier!!

We had a fun family date to the mall and got ice cream one night.

 Well, I gotta get to bed.  It's late, and the kids will be up early!
Thanks for praying for us!  We love y'all and appreciate every contact from you guys!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

One week here

We've made it through our first week here in the Middle East!    We have so much to be thankful for.  But if I'm real with you, it has been a really hard week.  I wasn't expecting that at all.  I knew the hard would come, but I wasn't thinking it would hit the first week.  But the combination of not sleeping well for the week before we came, saying goodbyes, jetlag, and not sleeping well for the first nights we were here had me WORN OUT and in a really vulnerable place.  Add in quite a bit of nausea from pregnancy, some tummy trouble from time to time, kids who are wild as they transition...and I have been feeling like a wreck. 

Two nights ago, we had some prayer time with our sweet friends here.  I'm so thankful for their love and help as we're getting settled.  We borrowed a fan from them for our room which helped make us cooler at night and drown out the call to prayer a little--which has helped me sleep better!  The painter starts painting our house today--which means we're closer to moving in and starting to get settled in our own place.  All of those are great steps in the right direction!

But most of all, my safe place has been Jesus.  I even told John one day that I was going to start holding my Bible while I sleep.  : )  I've been reading Psalms and just feel such a peace that it's in my weakness that He is strong!  Good news...cause I'm not feeling very strong in any way this week!

Hopefully later this week, I can give you a few more fun glimpses at our life here, but just thought I'd catch you up on the "inside story," too!  Thanks for praying for us and loving us!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Day 3

Today is day 3 of our time here.  It's morning, and I've set 2 main goals for myself today...
1.  Give myself and the kids a shower
2.  Cook dinner
Low goals, but realistic!  : ) 

Some highlights of our time so far:
Getting here with ALL our luggage

Friends picking us up at the airport...with dinner ready and beds made and ready for us to drop into!

Going out to a DELICIOUS arabic dinner.

Getting to walk through our new house and start dreaming about getting settled.

Meeting a neighbor who invited us over for tea.  Their family lives all around us...2 brothers, a sister, and another sister building a house.  I said, "We're surrounded by your family."  She said, "You will be part of our family."  There are things to LOVE about this culture!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

i love the lake

Last weekend we got one more lake house trip in before we leave.  We soaked up every minute!
We had a breakfast picnic on the boat...

followed by water play time on the island...
several boat rides...

including a sunset cruise for John and me...
Oh, the heavens do declare the Glory of God!!
We had a really fun (well, mostly fun) and unforgettable hike that we thought would be an hour but turned into a 4 hour hike!  We're so thankful for the mountain biker who stopped and gave us something to drink out of his camelback.
Catie even lost her first tooth!  She got something from the tooth fairy and something from the Mimi-and-Papa fairy!
I'm treasuring these times in my heart!!