Monday, November 30, 2015

What I learned in November (2015 Edition)

As I sit here in my classroom of three months, I feel this is my place yet still feel strangely like it could change any minute.  Our future here still has so many if's.  Frankly I am tired of the if's but grateful that my future is not totally unknown.  I know the ending, and it is good.  

It is the end of the month where I reflect back on the lessons for the month.  These lessons may be fun or serious or even trivial.  I also link up with Emily and other bloggers at Chatting at the Sky on the lessons they have learned.  

Without further ado, here are my lessons for the month:

1. It is Worth it for One Student.

I really only have one student who we have decided I will refer to as the Great M.  We moved to this place knowing I would pretty much have one student.  For this time and place, it is a good fit for both of us.  We are enjoying mornings full of fractions, Egyptian history, science experiments. and figuring out the writing process.  For a time each morning, I add in two other students for their math, but then I am back to teaching the Great M.  Fifth grade isn't so bad for this high school teacher when I have just one student.

Why is it worth it?  There are so many reasons, but I will name a few.  It helps her family do what they do best for our team while I get to do something that I love to do and am hopefully good at.  I am investing in a child who will one day go out in the world.  That is always worth it.  Plus it makes me miss my children who are off at their schools just a little bit less.  In time, God will send more children my way but for now, this is my place. 

2. Being a Part of a Book Launch is Fun but Daunting.

This month I was able to read two books that are just now coming out and review them.  It was fun to be a part of the process, and both books were great reads.  The daunting part was writing a good review.  Not because the books weren't excellent, but because I didn't want my words to get in the way of someone else reading their words.  

So if you need a fun Christmas read, check out Chautona Havig's newest book Carol and the Belles which released Thanksgiving. 

Or if you prefer Christian Fantasy, check out Jill Williamson's book The Darkness Reigns which is currently free at Amazon and releases December 1. 

Or you might be like me, and just read both of them. 

3. Transitions Take Time and Grace

I crave the familiar.  Maybe that is why my favorite part of Thanksgiving day was cuddling up on the couch with my Honey and watching You've Got Mail which I have seen dozens of times.  

We are three months into our transition.  It takes time and for me just a little more time.  I am learning to be patient with myself and to extend grace not only to myself but also to those around me.  It is a blessing that most of my days have a good routine to them, and I am treasuring this time of just my Honey and I as we take hikes, cook together, or read together.

I also have to watch that I don't feed the introverted side of myself too much.  When things are stressful, I just want to retreat and be by myself.  Sometimes that is needed.  Other times I just need to dive into life here.  

4. Lasagna Soup is Now One of Favorite Soups

We almost didn't try out this recipe that we found since we didn't have ricotta cheese or Italian sausage and couldn't find fresh basil.  For our city, basil is out of season.  We then tried making ricotta cheese, and it was a fail.  

But we didn't give up.  We used ground beef instead of Italian Sausage.  Cream instead of Ricotta.  Dried Basil instead of fresh.  Since we also can't find fire roasted tomatoes where we are, my husband smoked some tomatoes for this soup.  I think the smoked tomatoes was what made our other substitutes work.  

The soup was delicious for the cold days we are having here and tasted even better the second day.  Here is the link to the recipe in case you want to give it a try.  I can't wait to try it again when we are in the states with all of the correct ingredients. 

5.  It is Going to Be a Cold Winter

The days are nice here but the nights get really cold.  We have been running our heaters much more than we did in the capitol city.  When my Honey is out of town, I usually sleep on our couch so I don't have to brave the cold bedroom by myself.  On the bright side, it is beautiful with the snow.  Here is a glimpse of where we live from the roof of our house.

Well that is it for this month.  I would love to hear what you learned this month in the comments.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

My Favorite Thing to Do on Thanksgiving Evening

I love Thanksgiving- the food, the conversations, and the games.  But as the sun goes down, this girl finds herself tired and ready to be away from people.  which is why my favorite thing to do on Thanksgiving evening is to snuggle up on the couch with a good book.  

This past year, one of my favorite go-to authors has been Chautona Havig.  Her stories are fun and full of truth.  They are good in busy seasons, stressful seasons, and even peaceful seasons.  The perfect type of book to read after a long day.

This month I was able to read Chautona's newest book Carol and Belles early as part of her launch team.  It has been a privilege to see the writing progress up close and read a good book at the same time. This newest book is full of delightful twists from two pen pals meet after writing to each other for years. I love how Carol from Romania tries to figure out the American culture and idioms.  So if you are looking for good book to read on Thanksgiving evening that has a bit of romance to it plus some holiday spirit,  I would suggest Carol and the Belles.  If you buy it in the next few days, you will even get a bonus gift with it.   To find out more about the plot of the book and the bonus for buying early, click here.  To buy the book, click here.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

A Spirit of Fear

I live in a country where I have had to go on lock down because of terriost attacks.   I have had my front door blown open because of a car bomb over three blocks away.  Friends have been killed because of terrorist attacks.  In those moments, fear can come in and paralyze you.   I have a choice.  I can live in fear, or I can remember that God has not given me a spirit of fear but a spirit of power, of love, and of self discipline. (II Tim 4:7)  It doesn't mean I am careless or not aware of the security risks.  Instead, I live life wisely knowing the risks yet still serving the people God sent me to serve.   Fear is a tool of the enemy.  Love is a tool of God.

There are times that God has called us to live outside of our comfort zones.  For me, it was moving to different country and learning a new culture and language.  Some days it means I look stupid when I can't find the right words to say.  Other days it means I sit for an hour with a lady who needs money as she tells me her story, and I am not sure how to help her without hurting her in the long run.  I am not totally comfortable as I walk on the streets of my new city.  I am a foreigner who attracts attention even though I dress very conservative.  It is not comfortable, but it is life.  For one friend, stepping outside her comfort zone meant adopting a 15 year old girl even though she already had four girls of her own.  What if it didn't work out?  What if it totally messed up her nice family?  For another friend, it means investing in a community that many have forgotten.  Each week, she and others are loving on the kids of that community and finding ways to connect with their families.  I find that it is when we step out of our comfort zones that we really see God work.   God has not given us a spirit of fear.  We have to reject the spirit of fear before the spirit of power, of love, and of self discipline can truly kick in and start to work.

So my question is... What if God is using refugees to bring the world to America so that those refugees can learn about a Savior that many have never heard of?  Or maybe a better question is...What if God is bringing the refugees to America to change us?  Our family has friends who work with refugees from Burma.  They tell us that they feel like they have been given more then they have given when working with these dear people.  Their faith has been challenged.  Their faith has grown.  Maybe God is asking America to step out of its comfort zone so He can truly move in and through us.  In James 1:27, it says that "pure and genuine religion in the sight of God means taking care of widows and orphans in their distress."  What if God is calling us to take care of these orphans and widows who are refugees.  (Here is a post from Desiring God that says it well.)

But is it safe?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I do know from helping friends here that it is very hard to get a visa to the US.  Many local friends have been turned down even just for a short visit.  These friends were good people who had great references and were not flight risks.  I can't imagine the hoops these refugees will have to go through for a more permanent visit.  The process is not perfect because we are human, but I do think it is not as easy as we think to become a refugee to America.  (Here is an article about the process) We also have to remember that the world is not safe anymore.  God often reminded the Israelites that their trust was  not to be in Egypt or the other countries around them.  Their trust was to be in God alone no matter the circumstances.  Maybe God is calling us to this kind of trust.  

So I don't usually talk about political topics on this blog but today my heart is hurting for those people who are hurting all around the world.  I know there are a lot of sides to this issue and things that need to be considered.  But let's make sure our decisions are based on what God would have us do and not a spirit of fear.  

For a good perspective of what is like at the border where many refugees are coming in, go to  the blog Across Cultures

Here is my prayer for today. 

Dear God  I am praying for the people who are hurting because they have no home to go back to.  I am praying for the children who have seen too much violence in their short lifetime.  My prayers also goes to governments and countries as they decide on the fate of these refugees.   May God be with the fear that is out there.  Give us wisdom and grace to deal with those who are in need and distress.  May we truly seek your will in this situation not be ruled by fear for you have not given us a spirit of fear.  May we instead live in the spirit of power, of love, and of self discipline that you have given us.  Amen