Sunday, March 28, 2021

Riding a Lion

We cuddled together, blankets and fuzzy socks attesting to the struggle to stay warm in the cold of a Mafraq winter. Thanks to Pinterest, I could send someone’s beautiful lion painting to my husband as a little mid-day-courage-card with a few fitting words. My daughter and I gazed together through the screen to the majestic lion likeness, whose fearlessly stedfast expression was nearly mesmerizing. 

Joy watched quietly for a minute or two, inadvertently pinning my arm as I tried to type and send. Then with a sudden breath of longing she broke the silence: “Someday, I want to ride a lion.” 

Decisively, she gave a few concluding nods of her little head. I turned towards her with a grin of surprise and encouragement at this sudden unveiling of her secret wish.

“Oh yeah?” My racing thoughts of a tiny girl sitting on a wild, dangerous and fearless beast shifted as I continued gazing at the painting glowing up at us. The strength and fearlessness flashing in those eyes became those of the conquering Lion of Judah for whom we wait and long. I remembered that Isaiah truly saw ahead to a new day where lions will have a reign of peace beside lambs. Little lambs like mine.

“You want to ride a Lion, Sweetie?” I said softly. “Someday, I think you will.”

What are the secret desires whispering deep in your soul? If they cannot find their fulfillment here and now...take heart. A new era is coming! The Lion named Jesus will reign and He will make all things wonderfully new. 

In that day, so many dreams will be coming true.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Don't Lose Your Song!

It was rather conspicuous actually. I was sitting in a congregation and we were all singing together, “There is Coming A Day”. Suddenly, I found myself singing alone. The attention of everyone else was diverted to something happening in the back of the building and they all stopped mid-song. I was unfazed, continuing on in my lone soprano voice, “what a day, glorious day, that will be.” Everyone turned now to stare at me and chuckle. 

And then my little boy sleeping beside me jabbed into my side as he did a push up and turned to wake me. I realized that my song had only been a dream. 

But as I fed him, I pondered. Sometimes it seems that the whole world is losing their song. (Granted, that’s simply not true and the faithful sing on.) Sometimes we become corporately distracted and our songs of hope and expectation die away mid-chorus as we are caught up in the hullabaloo of what is happening around us. 

Sometimes I lose my song. I stop singing just because I can’t hear those around me singing on. Sometimes I lose focus of what the future really holds for the righteous. I fill up on the messages swirling around me of doom and gloom until there’s no room left for the true saga of indomitable hope. 

But what if people laugh at us because we still sing of The Day that is coming? What if they think we are the weird ones because they stopped singing and we carried on? What if our voices are lone and solitary in their song? What if we are the only ones singing when That Day is suddenly here in all its splendor?

Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020


The babe is tired. So am I, of course, but he is the one who has the luxury of someone telling him to go to sleep. This is my life, and I love it.

I rock him in my arms, tucking his blanket tighter as he suddenly determines he’s not longer planning to go to sleep. How a baby’s decision making skills work can baffle me all day. “Night-night,” I encourage. 

Gradually I realize that he has caught sight of something: the mirror. Haven’t we all a certain level of fascination with those? Cheering him on in his quest of discovery (a mommy’s decision making skills would be another study, to be sure!) I move to the right so he can get a glimpse of the two of us. 

He sees his round little face full of a pacifier, not sure what to think of himself. Often he thinks his little face is exciting, but this time he appears pensive, unsure. Until he looks up. Until he sees…Mama. A smiling Mama. A big Edward-smile breaks across his face. I can see it, even from behind his pacifier. He’s smiling at me. My heart leaps. I love his love. 

After a moment of sharing smiles, my son returns his gaze to the little boy in the mirror. He is satisfied that it is indeed himself, seeing that he’s in Mama’s arms, and he relaxes. I turn from the mirror, again wanting to help him wind down so he can fall asleep. 

But my mind is on the mirror rendzevous. 

So many times I look in the mirror of life and my heart is unsettled. I wonder, “Who is she?” I don’t smile. I don’t relax. I lose my orientation. What can help my weary confusion?

When I look up and see my Father’s face, everything tends to come into perspective. When I see that He is smiling over me, enjoying me, I see myself in a new light. When I see that it is His arms around me, I relax. When I see that He is not far away, but rather intimately involved in the picture of my life, I calm down and find a smile creeping up to my lips, begging for an outlet. 

My little son is sleeping now, tucked under his blanket. I watched the sleep overtake him, enjoying the beautiful picture of a tired son finding rest.

Now, Father in Heaven, it’s time for your tired girl to look up….at You.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

The Travelator

It was one of those moments where I don’t even want to know how many people were standing there, staring at me.

“I’d rather you give me a hand instead of a stare” is a sentiment that any mom could probably relate to, especially in the toughest moments of trying to find our way. I am grateful to report that even during this isolating period of COVID, I have experienced the helping hands mixed in amongst all the stares. But today's story is about a time when I'm going to say that the stares were completely understandable.

Six weeks after the glorious arrival of my little boy, we decided to bring an end to my lengthy confinement with a Time to Shop. My husband needed a few things in the capital city, so we all toted along in the complicated and jolly way that moms and babies do.

After meandering around town and visiting various different places, we came to finish the trip at an enormous mall; one last stop to see if “in all of Jordan” the item Jonathan was looking for could be found.

The children and I were getting tired. Nap time doesn’t decide to skip showing up no matter how much you try to ignore it. I came up with a plan: find a little spot somewhere in the vicinity of Jonathan’s shopping. Sit my weary self down upon something resembling a seat. Finally, put every watt of my dimming brain power into use by telling Joy interesting stories of when she “was little” (which is her latest craze).

Eventually Jonathan wanted to traverse a larger section of the mall in a quicker way than we could manage all together, so we parted ways. While he trekked up, down, and all around, I slowly pushed a shopping cart around a plaza of shops hugging an active travelator.

Do you know what a travelator is? Personally, I’m not sure how I found out about them so late in life, and expect you may be better informed. I will explain, however, just in case. A travelator is the genius contraption which moves the masses in the direction they want to go, without them moving themselves. Unlike an escalator which boasts a moving staircase, this invention is simply a moving sidewalk, which in this mall would either be moving up, or down. It’s particularly helpful if you wish to take a shopping cart of merchandise (or in my case, children) to a different level of a mall. No more elevators with their awkward tightness and need to either greet or stare at the wall while feeling sick to your stomach from the ride. On a travelator, you are freed to take in the grandness of the mall around you while being slowly lowered or elevated to a new level of shopping options with the greatest of ease. These innovative travelators (or is the innovative shopping carts?) have a system which I don’t understand, causing the wheels of the carts to instantly lock upon entering a travelator. This ensures that there will be no tales of runaway carts on these genius moving walkways.

What the inventor’s ingenuity might not have counted on was the likes of Hannah Rudolph, the Distracted Mama, Sleep-Deprived-Woman, Scene of the Day.

I decided after an hour that it was time to go Down. I wanted out of the mall. I was tired of trying to enjoy window shopping with a two year old asking me constant, repetitive questions. I was tired of being told by personnel that I didn’t have gloves on when I purposefully removed them so I could care for my son with my *clean* hands. My baby needed to be nursed; my body longed to be freed from the shoulder ache of a 12 pound boy strapped to my chest for hours. Oh, and we all needed to use the bathroom.

Successfully, I descended two floors via the handy travelators. Carefully, I edged my cart onto the moving sidewalk and stepped on behind, ever so pleased to be able to go somewhere without moving my legs. On floor P-1 (or some other combination of letters and numbers which I couldn’t make sense of) we found a restroom and used it. And then — Distracted Mama, Sleep-Deprived-Woman, none other than Hannah Rudolph, moved to the travelator to descend to the middle parking floor her husband described to her over the phone and begin the attempt to find her car.

I directed my shopping cart with its ornery, wall-eyed wheel with one hand toward the moving sidewalk. My diaper bag was dangling crazily off my shoulder (nobody could figure out why I didn’t set it in front of me in the cart) and my free hand was cradling my waking baby in his sling. (Nobody could figure out why I tied my baby to me either, no doubt, seeing how they stared and snuck little backward peeks with their wondering eyes.) I pushed my cart onto the travelator, carefully. WHAM! With a crazy jolt, the cart snapped backwards at me, as though in fear of the travelator, slamming my daughter’s chin into the edge of the cart.

“Oh sweetie, I’m so so sorry!” I exclaimed, my voice strained and edged in flustration (which edging can occur when you are both flustered and frustrated). Joy looked up at me with her wide, blue eyes, trying to decide whether or not to cry. Sensing that people behind me were gathering to stop and stare, I tried to leave the situation as fast as possible. Carefully and with determination in my chin, I edged my cart onto the previously trusty travelator once again.

WHAM! My daughter’s chin slammed again into the cart, as we all were jolted back and forth and I hastily pulled the cart back onto solid ground. Tension gripped me. What was I doing wrong? Why wasn’t it working? It was as though my cart had become a bucking and wild horse, unwilling to do my bidding. I felt like a village girl in the big town for the first time, baffled and bewildered and about to cry. I heard men behind me talking in Arabic, telling each other, “she didn’t see, she didn’t see.” So I looked. And behold, the travelator was coming UP, along with some dear folk who were moving towards me from the bottom, no doubt feeling some rising emotions at the sight of the bucking cart and jaw-clenched cart-pusher at their destination.

I wanted to cry. My embarrassment and shame knew no bounds. I looked at not a soul, steered my wall-eyed cart away, and furtively scanned the area for the travelator going DOWN. As my children and I descended smoothly moments later, I replayed the scene in my mind, over and over. The crowd watching the dumb foreign lady with the diaper bag banging around at her side and her infant tied onto her chest, determinedly pushing her cart again and again and again and again (my imagination stuck that part on repeat) down onto the upwards-moving travelator.

But by the time I reached the parking garage, the narrative was changing from one of shame to one of hilarity. Laughter bubbled up out of my being, and I only wished that I would’ve had the presence of mind just to stop in front of that travelator up above, letting out this peal of laughter in the presence of the staring crowd. Yes! Let’s all get a good laugh! There’s a chance that the beautiful Hannah Rudolph may never make this mistake again, so while we have the chance, let’s chortle!

I have tried and tried to discover some sort of great moral, lesson to be learned, or deep spiritual truth that shines brightly in the light of this story, but alas. I have to end by simply saying, watch. Always, look first. Pay attention to where you are going, and ask yourself the question: will the route I am about to take actually get me where I want to be?

If you follow my advice, you are not likely to follow my example.

The End. (Till next time.)

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Have a Coffee, On Us.

We wish we could take you on a walk through town to meet our friends, see interesting sights, and taste some local foods. Since we can't, maybe you will enjoy this unprofessional video of this friend of ours making Jonathan a cup of coffee. He has perfected the art of boiling the coffee on his little burner to the point where it boils over into a cup! (When things boil over in our kitchen it is never this beautiful. Just saying.)

Oh, the Ups and Downs of Life

Enjoy. 😱😂💕

It was our first day in a new country, and we were feeling everything that humans who just flew across the world with a toddler are apt to feel. Rachel, however, had a few more feelings in store for her emotion-pile!

He's Got This

A chilly, freshly laundered shirt rests damp in my hand, as I pause and pay attention to the world outside my airy balcony. 

Twittering birds soar amongst our neighborhood assortment of squarish apartment buildings. The morning air is cool and fresh, the sky a heart-melting puffy blue. 

The fine dust that usually has its hands in everything is subdued under the influence of a recent rain, and neighborhood trash floats peacefully in a large pond-of-a puddle that still looks to me like a foreign guest in our desert town. Robed men walk briskly down the street, their skirts shuffling. Children in coats scamper and play in the vacant lot across from us. Colored laundry decorates neighborhood window grates, tucked in-between the bars and waiting for a good piece of warmth and sunshine to come along. I sling the wet shirt over a plastic line and position the arms for drying. Yes, this is a beautiful place in which to enter the 2020s. 

Awakened to the present as I am, the question arises: Since we are about to enter a new numerical decade, I wonder where I was at a decade ago? Flipping backwards through the mental pages of my life until I reach 2009-2010, I stare in memory at the teenager sitting on her bed, looking out the window. What were her dreams? What did she long for? A line from one of my favorite poems back then can tell you some of my sentiment:

“If you have gone a little way ahead of me, call back;
'Twill cheer my heart and help my feet along the stony track;
And if, perchance, Faith's light is dim, because the oil is low,
Your call will guide my lagging course as wearily I go….”
- Quoted in Streams In The Desert devotional

I remember how I often longed to hear those who had gone even a little ahead of me, calling back to me with words of reassurance and hope. Actually, I still find myself longing to hear from those farther down the path, who’ve been pilgriming longer than I. “’Twill cheer my heart and help my feet along the stony track!”

But today, I want to “call back” to any who are behind me on the path. 

Mainly, I want to say, trusting Jesus is safe.

At the beginning of this decade, my thoughts first started to turn to this part of the world. I dreamed of what the future could hold; yet in the present moments I had no idea what decisions to make, agonizing over so many possibilities. Do I go here, there, or anywhere? How will I know for sure which guy to marry? How will I have enough money for the step I feel I’m to take? And what will I do after that?

Hindsight seems to be a gift you can only receive by faithfully taking one day at a time. Looking back from here, I can see the artful choreography of a Master Artisan as I recall each monumental event and experience that led me up to the part of the pilgrimage I find myself on today. It all fits together like a 3,652-piece jigsaw puzzle. The dark merging into the light with that piece; the jagged rocks beside the flower, with those six pieces that connect the mountain with the valley. How did I know the right one to marry? How did I know which steps to take? The truth is, I didn’t know. I was blind, yet led by the hand of Someone I could not see, but trusted was very, very close. And He was.

If you are earnestly desiring to be close to Jesus, desiring His will, and wanting to glorify Him with your life, He can take care of the journey. Set your heart on pilgrimage with Him. (See Psalm 84:5, NKJV) The journey most likely won’t look like you expected (from my experience) but you don’t want to be the one in charge. There is so much you don’t know, that He does know. Letting Jesus take the lead is worth it. He knows what He’s doing, where He’s going, and how to get you there.

I ended this last decade by moving to the place where we are now. In a sense, I started a pilgrimage leading me here, ten years ago; and now, as we begin a new decade, I'm starting a new pilgrimage in a new land. There is so much I don’t know; so many unknowns and there will doubtless be countless joys, sorrows, troubles and delights in the next decade if Jesus doesn’t come back before then. 

However, my heart is quieted as I think back over God’s faithfulness to me. He has walked with me through seasons of darkness as well as seasons of light. He’s walked with me in ecstasy and sorrow. I haven’t always felt His presence or understood what He’s doing; indeed, there are still great mysteries I carry in my journey with Him. 

But if you are longing for some reassurance as you look into a new decade, I want to be one to say, Lift up your head, don’t be cast down in your soul. There is One who is walking with you, who knows the path and the destination, and He’s got this. He can handle your successes as well as your failures. He can handle your mistakes and cheers you in your successes. He can handle your pain, and He does give joy. Trust Him with the journey, and let Him lead the way. With me. I need to be reminded of these things as well.

The balcony is calling me to come and watch and listen again. The laundry is calling, too. I am praying for you today, that in the ordinary moments, you will also be awake to find the hand of God.

This was written specifically for those who were on teams that we led. If you are ahead of me on my journey, I look forward to hearing you calling back to me of God’s faithfulness and persistent love.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

All in the Plan

It must’ve been quite dark already. A woman large and pregnant moaned to her husband in the dimly lit cobblestone street, ”Please, we must find somewhere to stay. I am so exhausted. There must be a place.” Her husband shook his head in bewilderment. They were in an unfamiliar place, one of many travelers who were being required by law to go to the towns of their ancestors. A new husband, he hoped his new wife with her pregnancy emotions wouldn’t blame him for their predicament from the wildness of her sleepy mind. “I’ve been trying and trying to get to a good place where we can stay,” he replied slowly. “I guess l need to start asking around for a little corner of someone’s barn or something. I’m so sorry.” But his wife was too tired to reply. Her mind was preoccupied with thoughts of the Miracle who was squirming uncomfortably in her belly. The exhausting travels of the day had done their work in her, and although a first time mom, she was quite sure that the feelings she was having must mean that tonight would be The Night.

Her imagination flitted to the cozy scenes she had envisioned for the moment she would give birth. True, she had brought along some cloth for wrapping the baby; but there was so much they hadn’t been able to bring with them to this ancient, brimfull town. 

I sure do wonder what she thought, when her husband led her into a dirty, smelly barn for the night. The Night. In my current pregnant state, I can imagine quite well how my soul would recoil at the thought of stable boys and animals sleeping and making noises near me while I experience one of life’s holiest moments....amidst straw and dirt! I am sure I would find myself easily feeling forgotten by the God I follow. Betrayed. Frustrated. Alone.

I find it easy to imagine that Mary could have been at least tempted to feel abandoned by God that the very moment when Immanuel arrived to earth.

In Mary’s motherly eyes, it must’ve seemed like an ironic oversight that one carrying such a wondrous child as hers would be required by circumstance to give birth in a barn. It must’ve seemed like God Himself had closed His eyes and let life happen for a short while without His careful observance. 

But there was a lot she couldn’t see. 

God’s eyes were open. Heaven was open. Immanuel was soon to be loved and known as God, With Us. God was fulfilling a Plan bigger than the new mother could hope to dream. He saw in her baby The Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the whole world. And He wanted the Lamb to be born in a place for animals. A place for the poor, the ones who were last, the ones who couldn’t find a place and were pretty much homeless. Almighty God was sending His Lamb precisely to those kinds of people. He wanted His entrance into the world to be a symbol of the life He would live and the kind of people He would welcome into His Kingdom. He wanted His Lamb to be born in a place where, symbolically, it would be shepherds who would be the first to seek and find Him; a place where those who care for sheep could be the first to adore the newly born Lamb of God. 

I am sure Mary had no idea, as she yielded herself to birthing her precious child in the dirt and discomfort of a stable, that this was all in the Plan

But how she must’ve rejoiced to receive her child into her arms! And what feelings of awe must’ve rushed through her when a group of rough, night-air-scented shepherds made their way into the barn to welcome the King of Glory to Bethlehem!

I too face many moments in life where things don’t seem fair. It’s too easy to wonder, “Father God, do You care? I should be believing, but I need reassured - are You there?” It’s easy to feel that if He truly were there, circumstances would be better. If His promises were coming true, surely it wouldn’t look like this

But if only we could be given the eyes to see, even for a minute or two, the way that all things are working out for good and the way we are part of a glorious story of redemption and meaning that spans history! If we could see all there was to see, we would surely know that we are adequately cared for. In fact, we might not even mind if we weren’t. In light of the glorious meaning that the Lamb gives to us and our story, we might not need it to be easy. We might not need it to all make sense in the moment. We might not need it to be comfortable. If only our small lives may fulfill their part in the glorious Story, we will not regret yielding to birthing in a barn...or whatever may be in The Plan for us.

Monday, November 11, 2019

The Indwelling

The consultation room was adjoining the tiny waiting room, a sliding glass door between the two several feet ajar. Forgetting the lack of privacy, I lay on the bed, my eyes glued to the screen which showed what’s going on inside of me. Soon I would have my ridiculous feelings put to rest that I was simply just getting fat and sick. Four positive tests still hadn’t completely convinced me of the truth, apparently. 

First the doctor checked out my kidneys, then my gall bladder, and I started to wonder what all else he was going to decide to look at by the time he finally proceeded down to my womb. I looked away in momentary fear, until I heard him say, “and there is the baby, and there is the heart beating”, and I looked again with utter awe. To my amazement, the little one was immediately obvious to my untrained eye. The child raised its hand, and I could even see the distinct outline of tiny fingers! “The baby is giving thumbs up, he is saying ‘see everything’s OK in here!’” The doctor commented in a tone that bore a note of jubilance.

As we continued to watch, our little newest member of the family decided to do some daily calisthenics. First it stretched completely out, feet touching one end of its little home, head against the other. Next, it started waving its hands and wiggling its feet at the same time. Then after a little break came the sit-ups, and the darling little belly touched the top of my womb. I could’ve watched for hours. I pondered silently, “All this happening inside of me, while I can’t see or feel a thing!! What a strange thought. This has been going on every day, and I didn’t even know it!”

What a miracle. Everything else faded away as I lay in quiet satisfaction, filled with the awe of the child within me who already at almost 12 weeks looked so cute and human. 

Now it’s another day. I’m laying in bed, sick with a cold. My belly is still a fat flab - or a baby bump, as my sister calls it. I can’t see a baby, I can’t feel a baby. (Just for fun, try saying “fat flab” ten times and see if all the letters are still in the original order at the end!)

If I were prone to enjoying silliness, I would doubt if there was still a baby in there. I would convince myself it was all just a happy dream that a little human is swimming and living inside of me. If I were wanting to believe the feelings of the moment over what I know to be true, I would think that I am only sick with a cold and there is no charm and promise of future enlargement to our family.

But I choose the delight of faith, allowing the consciousness of the little one within to bring me awesome delight and joy. There is someone loving its little life inside the coziness of my womb, today!

As I enjoy the feeling of having another human living its little life within me, I can’t help but transition into thinking of the way that the Holy Spirit also lives within me. Sometimes there are days where we get glimpses and evidences of His presence that are super clear. We are convinced we aren’t alone in these bodies, that Someone else is living here with us. He’s experiencing what we experience, feeling with us, helping and comforting us.

Other days, we feel so empty and alone and wonder where He is. Does that mean He isn’t there? Does the fact that we can’t see Him mean He left? Do we keep enjoying His presence in faith, living as though He’s still in there?

You tell me.

Monday, September 30, 2019

The Joy of “عادي”

Sometimes you learn a new word and take such a liking to it that it comes to the top of your mental vocabulary list, always ready and raring to be used. Such was the case with the word “عادي” (pronounced 3adi, the 3 symbolizing a letter with a burping sound coming up from the back of your throat). This word can be used in many situations and can bear the meaning of “It’s normal, don’t worry about it; it happens”.

About a month ago I set out from my house with the essential goal of buying a pair of shoes for my daughter. After visiting numerous little street-shops and finding many kinds of shoes with undesirable characteristics such as blinking lights (“WHY don’t you like them??”), uncomfortable soles, wrong sizes, etc I caught sight of a pair hanging up on the familiar wire mesh by a nail poked in the sole. “Ahh,” I breathed, standing on tip-toes and pulling down the shoe from the nail where it was hanging. It was much closer to the kind of shoe I was looking for; similar to an sandal, breathable, easy to put on, not too fancy but very nice looking. The salesgirl stared uncomprehendingly at me. “No, no, no!” She said with horror and shock all over her face (in Arabic of course). “This shoe is for boys!” Her look said it all: “Are you really as dumb as that??”

عادي, ma’am. “3adi.” Calm down. It’s normal. Everybody makes mistakes like this, right? Right?

The other day I was trying to enter a store, my bag on one arm and my toddler in the other. It was a stressful day of trying to find some things I needed at the market. Well, I decided impulsively at the last minute that I didn’t want to go into this particular shop after all (and face the insistent shopkeepers when I didn’t see anything I wanted to buy.) I turned to leave, only to jab my bony elbow right into the chest of a man squeezing into the door beside me! I don’t know who was more surprised, he or I. (In this culture, men and women never touch each other, not even by accident - or that’s what the look on his face said!). The poor man’s expression was priceless as he clutched his chest and looked at me like I was an alien. “Asfe, asfe!” I apologized, feeling about the size of a cockroach. “عادي” he declared, releasing me to continue my shopping endeavor. I got out of there as fast as I could, with the delightful word, “عادي” ringing in my head.

To continue the saga of buying shoes for Joy, I actually found a pair of sandals that were exactly what I was looking for. (With the help of a very eager gentleman!) He gave the box to Joy, and then took us to the cashier counter at which nobody was sitting, to complete our transaction. He put the box of shoes into a nice pink bag and gave it to Joy, who was absolutely delighted. “How much?” I asked him fluently, pulling out my wallet. “Seven,” he responded, as I pulled out a ten JD bill to pay with. Suddenly I noticed an older gentleman to my right and slightly behind me, moving towards me. I glanced at him, noting that he was holding out three 1JD bills in my direction. Confusion entered my being as I clutched my ten dinar bill, my mind racing. My first thought was that maybe he was a kind man who wanted to help pay for Joy’s shoes! But then I saw a very thick wad of cash in his left hand, and knew that he must be The Living Moving Cash Register and was offering me the change for my ten dinar. I glanced back at the young guy who helped us find the right shoes and from all the clues I could collect in the situation assumed that I was to pay the older man instead of him. My confusion seemed to be funny to them, and as we left they all enjoyed a good laugh. At my expense! (Thankfully not at the expense of my wallet. That has happened before too though.) And once again, I hoped deep inside that one day shopping experiences would become “عادي” to me and I would learn to fit in and be normal and not merely bring a cart load of guffaws into my new community.

The search for what is “عادي“ here continues every single day. 

My husband told my sister and I that we should go to such-and-such a street and find a juice shop he had passed by and thought we would enjoy. So one day, in the heat of the afternoon, we set off to have an adventure. After praying that God would give us energy to walk until we found the juice shop, we locked up the house and embarked. 

I hope you understand that when you go to do something new in a new culture, you don’t just “go to the juice shop”; you “embark from the house”, leaving comfort zones behind in the soft light of coziness. As we walked in the afternoon heat, I navigated us through a street crossing to the more-shaded side of the street. Just about then, a neighbor lady saw us and came over to chat. “How are you! How is it going?” We exchanged greetings. After the pleasantries and small talk, she got serious: “Why are you walking in the hot sun with your little sweetie?!” She demanded. I quickly sorted through my Arabic linguistic possibilities and settled on: “I know, it sure is hot today, extremely! That’s why I’m walking on this side of the street, away from the sun.” I looked at her, aiming for an aura of confidence, yet secretly hoping I would get a “pass” by my eloquent response. She looked from one side of the road to the other, and then, convinced that what I was doing was “عادي” after all, she bid us a cheery goodbye and went on her way.

We kept walking. And walking. And walking. When you’re on a new street, it can feel like even a short distance takes a long while to manage. And when you’re walking in the sun on a new street, the street can feel almost as long as forever. However, as we were nearly passing a bright yellow store, my sister pointed out all the fruit lined up inside and I quickly realized: we’ve found our place!

We entered, taking in our surroundings quickly. There were two counter displays colorfully arranged with a variety of fruits. There were two men behind a cash register counter, staring at us silently. There was a room full of empty tables and chairs and two unmarked, swinging wooden doors. With stifled giggles of “I-don’t-know-what’s-appropriate-but-let’s-try”, we slid into chairs at a table to the side. Picking up the menu, I glanced down the long list of options, immediately overwhelmed. How to know which one I want....much less, which is which? I could’ve just blindly put my finger down and picked something random but I really wanted to use this chance to practice my vocabulary. I was still laboriously poring over the squiggly writing when the glass doors opened and in came three teenage girls. They were giggling nervously, and didn’t seem well acquainted with the place. They glanced at us, then sat down at a nearby table and started looking at a menu and around the room. They got attention from the guys behind the desk like we did not, however, and the one fellow came to them ever so helpfully, escorting them through two swinging wooden doors into another room. I had seen those doors and wondered what was behind them. My instincts told me it was a room where the ladies could sit and enjoy their time; but my mind reasoned that I didn’t want to barge in and discover it to be a managerial office! However, now that there were other girls in that area we picked up our things and went through the swinging doors behind them. 

I finally decided to just order a drink made out of my favorite fruits whose names I already knew. Since a waiter didn’t appear at our table for a good while, I took the menu to the cash register counter and began. “Hello, I would like a strawberry mango orange fruit drink.” The man cocked his head and mumbled something that sounded like “I don’t see that on my list” as he looked through options on his computer. Finally he looked up and nodded at me. “One medium size,” I requested with a bit of a smile. “Without sugar.” It was one of the first times I had ordered something at an eatery here, and I felt for all the world like an eight year old ordering at a restaurant for the first time! (Except the eight year old would’ve probably skipped the “without sugar” part.) Feeling a bit like I had done a great enough deed for the day in simply getting to the right store and ordering something, I decided to just order one drink for Rachel, Joy and me to share. After paying, I went back into the ladies section to wait, hoping I didn’t look too “un-عادي”.

Soon enough, our drink arrived and we slipped our three straws into its smooth coolness. Between sips, we laughed at ourselves, especially when we noticed the three teenagers at the table in front of us thought we were quite amusing. 

“What’s your name,” I called to interrupt a stare and invite some conversation. It worked! Soon, not only did we have a conversation going, but for a bonus Rachel was trying to keep her bug-eyes from exploding as a bite of chocolate-soaked-waffle dangled in front of her mouth from her new friend’s fork!

We ended up being persuaded by many invitations to join them at their booth where they had two plates holding two gigantic waffles drenched in caramel and chocolate sauce. 

Eventually, we were able to persuade them that we were ready to leave, and exited the juice shop feeling as though we had some real friends. 

On the way home, Rachel and I debriefed together about our stretching juice shop experience. “Hannah! She gave me a bite from her own fork! Imagine if that would happen in America!” [translated: in America, that would NOT be عادي.] She continued in dumbfounded amazement. “I’m just imagining sitting in Taco Bell and the person in the booth behind me turns around and offers me a bite of their food from their fork! That would never, never, never happen in America!” I laughed, as I enjoyed replaying the juice shop scene in my mind in the eyes of my teenage sister. 

I was intrigued and delighted to realize that the juice shop experience of gaining new friends didn’t strike me as completely odd. Life has given me plenty of experiences to help me trade in some of my American personal space bubble for what most of the rest of the world considers appropriate, I suppose. It’s really amazing how in time one can adapt and learn new boundaries of عادي.

“You know,” Rachel mused, “In America, we never would’ve shared forks, but we also likely never would’ve become friends with the people at the table beside us. It’s kinda neat that we could make friends so easily.” I agreed. 

From finding shoes, to finding friends, the process is different in a new country. But when the “عادي” of a new country starts becoming truly “عادي” for you, it carries a joy with it that you could never quite gain through the “normal” of home. That’s the joy I’m looking for.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Plugged In

My God is Light and thus in Him
There is no dark
At all.
But what His brightness found in me
Was shadows
On the wall.

He shined Himself 
Upon my heart;
At last I saw the Light
I fell in Love
He turned me on
And sent away the night.

I glowed with glory
Fully His
He loved me, and I knew
That everything He says is right
And all His words 
Are true.

Quite like a lightbulb
Fully lit
Turned on 
Electrified - 
I was plugged into God my Source
My All, He would provide.

But then the darkness 
Of the world
Crept up to my back door
I opened it a crack
And then
My lightbulb shone no more.

Gone was the sparkle
In my eyes
I groped to find my way
I asked, 
Is darkness stronger,
Lasting longer?
Holding greater sway?

But as I groped
I filled my soul
With thoughts about The Light.
I thought of how He 
Speaks one word
And black turns into white.

And how He just said 
“Let there be”
And then, there was - so bright.
And in my dark, confusing room
I asked Him for the Light.

In quiet, gentle steps
He came
And visited my room 
With tender words
He spoke to me;
Chased away my gloom.

“Plug into Me!” 
He kindly said,
“This secret’s yours this hour:
If you unplug, 
Your light goes out;
I am the Source of Power.”

And when I plugged
Back into Him
Receiving strength and grace
The light of love
Sourced from Above
Shone brightly on my face.

The darkness of 
The world outside?
It needs a light like mine
So, plugged into the Power Source
I’ll shine.

August 15, 2019

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Shh...I'm Listening To Me Thinking

...I’m so dragged down 
By tons of things
I do not like.

Photo by Caroline Selfors on Unsplash
It could be dread of social stresses
Or washing dishes, cleaning messes
Or might be simply choosing dresses.
I do not want to plan a meal
I do not want to go and shop
I do not want to eat with friends
I don’t want cake with cream on top.

I don’t want to choose
And I don’t want to lose;
I don’t want to be weak
And I don’t want to speak
I don’t want to be sick,
I don't want to be quick.
I don’t want to miss out 
I don't want to fear, stall or doubt...

I don't like to stay
And I don't want to go
I don't like it hot
and I don't want it cold
I don't want to "don't want"
And I don't know what to do
Nothing is agreeable
Including you-know-who...

This life is mighty hard
With all these things 
I dread to do
What if - 
God could help me
I could have a great party 
of “I get to!”

I get to pick which dress to wear
I get to comb my daughter’s hair
I get to swim in a blue pool
I get to fill the bobbin spool
I get to read that big fat book
I get to give my Beau “that look”.
I get to listen to a happy song
I get to take my purse along
I get to dream of a new house
I get to laugh at Mama’s mouse
I let the sunshine warm my toes
And find delight in These and Those
I get to do a packing puzzle
I get to feel the dog’s cold muzzle

I get to wear my big black crocs
And wash my oily, messy locks
I get to have a friend who brings 
Me gifts and healthy, helpful things
I get to try lavender drinks
I get to see how Hubby thinks
I get to fix my coral dress;
I get to make a royal mess
I get to help my hubby clean
And watch how sweet his hands can seem

I get to have a writer’s group
I get to make a pot of soup
I get to clean a filthy floor
I get to read a book some more.
I get to have a long bath soak.
And take Vitamin C for my croak.
I get to learn about a Mac
I get to pack and pack and pack.

I get to be my Abba’s child
I get to choose the sauce that’s Mild
I get to eat at Taco Bell
And lots of other things as well...

Oh silly female!
Now I want
A life like mine!
I’m in! 
I’ll shine!

I’m trading cards;
Surrender and Delight
Will get me far
Remove the “I Don’t Want To” stack;
I’ve got my happy chances back;
I’m gonna say
“I love my life.
I’ll be a happy mom and wife.”

This poem appeared first last week in my train of thoughts and someone told me I should share it with you all. We are transitioning from the Packing-and-Goodbyes Stage to the Moving Stage tonight as we begin our pilgrimage more than halfway to the other side of the world. And for the record, I love my life! :) I have so many Happy Chances today, and I want to use them all.