Friday, November 8, 2013

Hope When Your Faith is Faltering

I smile as I think of you, my sisters serving in different ministries on different parts of the globe.  You are caring for children, cooking, cleaning, teaching, discipling, leading Bible studies, and supporting your husbands. You are amazing. 

I know Paul was describing youwhen he said, “We always thank God for all of you…We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith,  your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess. 1:3) Our service is motivated by faith, hope, and love, but I have to tell you sisters, my faith is flagging before the new challenge I’m facing. 

Three years ago my husband and I started the biggest faith adventure of our lives...

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Wedding, Circumcision, or Baptism?

Ten minutes before my teenagers’ baptism was scheduled to begin, God drenched our entire city in a torrential downpour, the first rain in three months. Rain dripped and poured into the building through cracks in windows and.  Friends called, saying they were stranded. 

“Oh no,” I thought, “We’ve been waiting for this milestone celebration for such a long time. How can this be happening?”

To read the rest of this post, head over to Cross-Cultural Mom's Companion.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Welcome to the Launch of My New Blog

Today I'm launching my new blog, Faith Spilling Over into Everyday Life.

I love my Olive Tree blog and the community of friends I've found through it, but I sense God calling me to a new venture. Faith Spilling Over will focus on letting your relationship with God spill over into everyday life, even during the bumpy moments, like when you have a family blow-up, complete with fireworks, during breakfast, right after you prayed for peace!

Although I’ll continue to write a bit about my cross-cultural life, because it’s part of who I am, you’ll notice a definite change of focus on my new blog.  I may post occasionally on Olive Tree, but to keep my life simple, most of my writing will be for Faith Spilling Over.

I’d love for you to visit me there and have a look for yourself. Follow this link to Faith SpillingOver.

I hope to see you there,


Friday, August 2, 2013

Mama Needs Time to Play Too

A few of my daughter's creative pursuits

The saying, “A Woman’s work is never done” perfectly describes our role as cross-cultural worker mamas. We care for children, cook and clean with few conveniences, home school, get involved with local schools, and study language on the side. We support our husbands’ ministry, invite people into our homes, and sometimes have ministries of our own outside of our families!

Head over to Cross-Cultural Mom's Companion to read the rest of my post

Friday, July 26, 2013

Stay Tuned...

Hello Friends,

I'm still working on my new blog. I should have it up by August 5th. I'll keep you posted.

May God bless you all on your summer endeavors.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Summer Cooking: Turkish Rice Salad

With summer heat in full swing, I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel much like cooking. My kitchen is an oven between 4 and 6 p.m., so I try to stay out of there as much as possible. Turkish housewives are practical; many of them cook in the morning, when it’s cooler, and then they have food ready for later in the day.  I, on the other hand, am not so organized. So I’m always on the lookout for quick and easy.

Here’s a simple recipe, great for summertime. Turks call it “Chinese Rice,” which mystifies me. As far as I know, there’s nothing remotely Chinese about it.

Turkish Rice Salad (Cin Pilavi*)

1 cup rice
2 cups water
1 tsp. salt
4 TBSP olive oil
¾ cup frozen corn 
¾ cup frozen peas
¾ cup carrots, diced in small cubes
1/3  - 1/2 cup dill pickle, diced in small cubes
3 TBSP chopped fresh dill weed (or 1-2 tsp. dried dill)

1.  Cook the rice by sautéing it in 1 TBSP olive oil; then add 2 cups of water and 1 tsp. salt.  Let it simmer 10-15 minutes, until the water is absorbed.  Stir to fluff it, and let it cool.

2.  Thaw or gently cook the frozen vegetables.  (If you live in the U.S., simply thawing them works fine. If you live in Turkey, these need to be cooked 2-3 minutes.)

3.  When the rice and vegetables are at room temperature, gently toss them together with the chopped carrots, pickles and dill. Drizzle with 3 TBSP olive oil and continue tossing.  Serve cold or at room temperature.

This serves 4-5 as a vegetarian main dish, or 8 as a side dish. Turks fill a small bowl with the salad and unmold it onto each individual plate.

Afiyet Olsun!

*I’ll correct “Cin Pilavi” as soon as I find the Turkish keyboard on my new computer! 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

"Do What You Can" Summer

What is summer like in your corner of the globe?  Here in our Aegean home, summer’s all about a laid back, slower pace.   Ramadan started this week, so many friends and neighbors will be lying low during the hot afternoons while they fast long hours from food and water.  

I’m taking advantage of extra free time to start a new project. In a few weeks, I’ll start a new blog, and I’m already excited about it.  Change and variety add spice to my life, so I decided to try a new angle on blogging.

"Do What You Can Plan"   

One thing that’s encouraging me to make time for a new project is Holly Gerth’s Do What You Can Plan: 21 Days to Making Any Area of Your Life Better.  Holly’s book is great encouragement for taking baby steps towards big dreams that seem out of reach. My ultimate dream is writing a book, but for right now, blogging seems like a more attainable goal for this home schooling, church planting mom. 

Meant to be read over 21 days, the book has a short devotional reading and an application point for each day.  Holly talks about starting small, doing what you can each day, and not waiting for the perfect time to start!

I have other summer projects that aren’t so exciting, like de-cluttering and organizing closets and drawers, but I’m trying to set aside some time each day to work on my new writing project. I’ll keep you posted on my progress. 

How about you? 

Do you have any summer projects that you’re working on?  Any dreams you wish you had time for? I’d love to hear how you’re spending your summer.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Enjoying the Journey

Travel is part and parcel of the cross-cultural life, but let’s face it, most of us dislike airplane and car travel. We look forward to arriving at our destination, but the actual trip is a drag.  Last month I took two trips: a 27 hour airplane journey over 10 time zones from Izmir to Los Angeles to stay 6 days and come back, and then a 9 hour car drive to stay at the beach for 2 days before returning home.

I dreaded our first day of air travel because it included a 5 and a half hour layover in Munich. 

To my surprise it was an eye-opening epiphany.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Taking a Break When Life Gets too Fast

Life is going too fast for me to find time for writing, so I’m taking a break.

The last month has been full of teaching commitments, end of the school year events, birthdays, trips, meetings, and home schooling. This week I'm remembering that God is in control as every day brings news of people getting hurt during the political protests here in Turkey.  At the same time I’m preparing for a trip to the U.S. June 11-19. Life is a whirlwind, but God is in the center. 

I will return to my blog July 4th.

Until then, I hope that the Lord gives you joy and peace for each day. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Taking Hospitality With a Grain of Salt

“Blessed is the man who can laugh at himself, for he will never cease to be amused.” This proverb is one of my favorites. It reminds me not to take myself so seriously.

Being able to laugh at myself certainly helped me during a recent catastrophe. My husband and I had guests, and when I stood up to re-fill the tea glasses, the slip I was wearing under my skirt mysteriously slid down in perfect ring around my feet!  I won't go into that story now, but I'm pretty sure it broke the norms of hospitality in any country, not just here in Turkey. (I still can’t believe it really happened.)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Why I Can Now Be a Real, Bona-Fide Turkish Housewife

Yesterday I celebrated my 49th birthday and made it to #2,985 on my One Thousands Gifts List.  See my list below to find out which gift makes me qualify to be a real-life, bona-fide Turkish housewife:

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Hope for When You Still Don't Speak the Language

It’s easy to get discouraged about language learning, especially when you still don’t speak the language after five years!   During our fifth year, Turkish neighbors asked my husband, “So you’ve been living here a long time now.  How come you don’t speak any better than this?” They didn’t mean to be unkind, but we were left speechless and discouraged.

My Husband and Daughter
My husband Javier is my language learning hero. Although he scored in the 25th percentile on a language aptitude test given by our organization, he came to Turkey at age 48, determined to learn Turkish.  It’s been a long road, and we’ve learned some things together about language learning:

Thursday, April 25, 2013

When Language Learning Has Fried Your Brain

Is there anything more frustrating than language learning for cross-cultural workers? My brain has been permanently addled by the languages I’ve studied. I’m a French teach who no longer speaks French. I used to be a totally fluent Spanish speaker, but now I stumble a bit. I’m more comfortable speaking Turkish.

My experience with Turkish goes back 13 years. I remember my first teacher, a 65 year old lady who peered at me through glasses that magnified her eyes. She would make me repeat the same words and phrases 20 times, even when I had no idea how I was saying it wrong. I had to repeat everything until she was satisfied I’d gotten it.  After 13 years I still find myself stumbling through Turkish word order and prefixes. I have to think back to how I started a sentence in order to finish it, and often everything comes out garbled, but people understand me anyway. 

Why Is Language Learning So Hard?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Chocolate Cake in Olive Country

My main service as a cross-cultural worker in Turkey is probably cooking.  I cook for my family. I cook for other workers. I cook for our church meetings. I cook for Turkish visitors. Fortunately for me, I enjoy cooking.

Hospitality is important here. This is a chocolate cake recipe that has saved my life countless times in twelve years here. When Turkish women friends come over for tea, it’s customary to serve at least one tatlı (sweet) and one tuzlu (salty). Turks often serve more, but this homeschooling mom sticks to the bare minimum. I know this recipe by heart and can whip it up and throw it in the oven after school for afternoon guests.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

When You're in a Spiritual Funk

Do you ever get in a spiritual funk? You feel dry spiritually, your prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling and God seems far away? You might be going through the motions of attending church and reading your Bible, but it seems like you get nothing out of it.

Still enjoying spring in Izmir

I’ve been there. In 2007 I began the year with a special prayer asking God to teach me more about joy, but I ended up struggling with depression instead!  For the first time in my adult life I felt depressed without understanding why. My husband and I went through a difficult time struggling with whether or not to stay in Turkey, but my discouragement went deeper than that.

I was too distracted by negative thoughts to get much out of Bible reading. Long passages overwhelmed me, but I could focus on a simple Psalm, so I went back to the book of Psalms. I memorized Psalm 23 and repeated it over and over to myself: “The Lord is my Shepherd. I lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul…”  Even though I didn’t feel any different, I kept asking God to renew my joy and I kept quoting Psalm 23. After about 6 months my depression lifted as mysteriously as it had come. Psalm 23 stayed with me though; to this day it is my “go-to” passage when I need an extra dose of God’s tender loving care.

Daily Time with God

What has kept me spiritually thriving for 12 years in a Mslm country is spending daily time with God. Nothing else encourages me, renews my perspective, or gives me strength and peace like sitting quietly with God to read His word and pray. Even so, sometimes I get into a spiritual funk, and trying new things in my quiet time helps get me out of it.

Ideas to Revive Your Quiet Time

Go back to simple truths: God loves you, and you can trust Him.

Meditate and read scriptures on God’s love.

Read Psalms for a few days.

Sit quietly in God’s presence without doing anything.  Just enjoy being with Him.

Sing a few simple worship songs.

Focus on listening. What might God want to say to you?

If you need guidance, ask God a question and write down whatever impressions come to mind.

Keep a gratitude journal.

Jot down prayer requests and keep track of answers.

Read a Bible story and imagine you’re one of the people in it.

Get outside to connect with God.

Try a new Bible study method. (I’ve enjoyed Good Morning Girls' SOAP method)

Memorize a passage you like.

Write out a one or two line prayer to take with you into your day.

Try a devotional guide (I like Word for Today)

These are just a few ideas for adding variety to our quiet times.  Do you have any suggestions? I need all the help I can get!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

One Thing You Need to Survive Overseas

My hair was standing on end, I had no makeup on, and I was dressed in ragged jeans, an old sweater and a bare face with no makeup when the doorbell rang. I was feverishly trying to finish cooking for our house church, so I could go get dressed.

“It must be one of my daughter’s friends,” I thought.  “I’ll let her answer it. “ But when the doorbell kept ringing, I went to the door.  It was Nesrin, a woman I’d invited to visit our fellowship for the first time.  One and a half hours early.

I breathed in deep before I opened the door.  The last thing I needed was a guest one and a half hours early. I was already a bit nervous because we’d accidentally scheduled a skype interview with someone back home for the same hour as our meeting.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

How to Get Spring into our Hearts

I’m driving my family insane listening to this song, “Take Me into the Beautiful.” It’s my spring song. What does spring look like in your part of the globe? Here’s why spring is my favorite season in Turkey:

Spring is a season of hope:

Have you ever lived through a winter that never ended? The weather never got warmer, birds never sang, the trees stayed bare, and flowers never bloomed? No matter how long the winter is, spring always comes!

Spring is physical demonstration of God’s promise to renew us and give us new life.  No matter how long you’ve felt spiritually weary or dead, renewal WILL comeWeeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:5) It’s a promise that I love to hold on to.

Monday, March 18, 2013

How to Keep on Going When the Road Seems Long

Do you ever feel like all your hard work is in vain?

You clean your house, but it’s dirty again the next day.

You strive to teach your children something, but it seems like they never learn.

You want to change a bad habit but fall back into the same trap.

You resolve to be more patient, but once again you find your nerves on edge and your voice rising.

Here in the Mslm World we share our faith and sow seed in hard ground, but few respond.  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Health Food, Turkish Style: Red Lentil Balls

My Turkish sister and I have a new subject in common: cooking and recipes!  I grew up watching my mom and my aunts look at cookbooks and talk about food.  Cooking is an important conversation topic among Turkish women, but I never thought I’d live to see the day when my “career girl” sister and I would talk about recipes! Bahar and I always talked about books we were reading, God’s word, the joys and challenges of our lives, and everything under the sun, minus cooking. 

Now, however, she occasionally calls to ask for a recipe or cooking tip and gets positively bubbly when she tells me about the food she's cooking. I guess it just goes to show how getting married changes a person. J 

So grab a glass of hot tea with Bahar and I, and let me share one of my favorite healthy Turkish recipes:

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Creativity Makes a Difference!

Some days I ask myself what on earth I got myself into when I answered the call to start a new fellowship in the Middle East with my husband.  In fact, I might have said no if I’d known ahead of time what a long, challenging road it would be. I’m not sure if it was love for God or plain ignorance that made me say yes!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Taking a Break Until Life Slows Down

I’m not sure how I get so busy when I live in what’s supposed to be a slower paced culture, but life is happening a bit too fast in my little Aegean corner of the world, so I’m taking a break from blogging until March 7th.

I’m hoping to heed Jesus’ call to his disciples in Mark 6:31:

“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

May the Lord give you grace and moments of rest, even during your busiest days.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Five Ways to Help Kids Growing Up Overseas

My kids with their Turkish abla, 2010
I still remember the circumcision party of my neighbor’s boy. My son followed all his buddies into the boy’s bedroom, and suddenly the door shut.  I realized the circumcision was about to happen behind that closed door, and without making a scene in front of our whole neighborhood, there was no way to get my son out!  I thought that was a pretty big step of independence for a 5 year old.  Just the other day my 13 year old daughter rode the bus downtown by herself for the first time.  Growing up always involves bigger and bigger steps to independence, but somehow that journey seems a bit more perilous when you’re overseas.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

When It's Hard to Trust God with Your Kids

When I saw my minutes-old son kicking and screaming in the delivery room 15 years ago, I had no idea how much joy and heartbreak being a mother would involve. I had no idea that he’d go from speaking Spanish to English before learning Turkish and that he’d learn to navigate anywhere alone by bus, metro or ferry in our Middle Eastern city.  I had no idea that my biggest challenge living overseas would be agonizing over whether we’re messing up our kids by raising them here.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Slowing Down to Enjoy Cooking: Turkish Cabbage Rolls

I like slow food because it reminds me that I don’t have to live life in a hurry.  So often we buzz through life on high speed, and meal preparation turns into a stressful quick fix, whatever we can get on the table the fastest! Of course, most evenings I want a nutritional meal that’s quick and practical, but once in a while I slow down to enjoy cooking as a hobby. Slow food is “produced or prepared in accordance with local culinary traditions, typically using high-quality locally sourced ingredients.” **

Last weekend I took the time to make a traditional Turkish dish that I love:

Etli Lahana Sarması (Cabbage Rolls Stuffed with Meat and Rice)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Called Overseas to Cook and Clean?

When God called me overseas, I had no idea how much time I’d spend cooking, cleaning, home schooling, playing games, and driving kids to sports practice. Just as if I were still back home in America. I even asked myself, “Why am I here, anyway? I can mop floors and teach reading back home.”
I had no idea that when I led a women’s study group, I’d feel bad about leaving my kids home with my husband, and when I spent days on end caring for a sick child without leaving the house, I’d feel vaguely guilty for neglecting my “ministry” responsibilities.
Years ago I asked a more experienced woman, “How do you manage to have a ministry outside of your home?”
Her answer flabbergasted me.

Visit A Cross-Cultural Mom's Companion to read the rest of this post.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Grocery Store Adventures

Some days I think, “I can’t believe I have lived in the Middle East for 12 years, and everything seems so normal.” Baklava, belly dancing, Turkish baths, and volatile tempers sound exciting, but I’ve gotten used to them.  Other parts of my cross-cultural life are commonplace, like going to the grocery store. It’s not glamorous, but it’s still a cross-cultural experience.

Grape molasses and tahin (sesame paste) 

Here’s my scoop on shopping in Turkey:

Thursday, January 10, 2013

When You Have a Case of the Doldrums

Do you ever feel like a pendulum? One moment you’re filled with thankfulness for God’s good gifts, and the next moment you’re complaining? One day you’re excited about life, and the next day you’re in the doldrums? This January I feel like a pendulum.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Compass for When Life Gets Crazy

This cross-cultural life can get wild and crazy enough to send you into a tailspin some days. Many of you, like me, strive to balance ministry with caring for your families. Living cross-culturally can bring new challenges like language learning, fewer household conveniences, and visa paperwork. If your kids are small, caring for them can be overwhelming; if they’re teenagers, they need special encouragement to thrive and make the most of their TCK lives. Does this sound familiar to you? Do you ever struggle to keep balance?