Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014: From Our House To Yours

We had such a lovely Thanksgiving lunch yesterday. Thanksgiving is about gratitude and family. It is our joy each year to host a dinner for staff members who are far from home on this holiday. This year we had the largest group we've ever had.

CC set up our den so that we could all eat at one big table.

It worked well. We had adults at the long tables, teens on the end, and little ones at the coffee table. All 26 had a seat and a plate!

We got our Fall decorations right outside in the apartment yard.

Our guests came at noon, each loaded with food to contribute.

I handed off my camera and laughed at the shots I got later. I am not sure if these were taken by our ESL teacher or Miss Middler. Clearly, they had fun.

CC carved our turkey. Our turkey gave me a scare. I thawed it for 4 days, but it was still solid inside. I couldn't get the neck out! So I googled it to see if I was doing something wrong. What turned up was "How to get rid of turkey neck without surgery." I had no idea "turkey neck" was a condition, but I sure hope I don't ever get one! Finally our turkey was done and on the table.

We started with some wassail. I bought a little paperback cookbook in Dec. 1996 when I had only been married for a month. I have made the wassail recipe in it every year since.

Almost the entire traditional Thanksgiving meal has to be imported. Turkeys can be hard to find, no ham at all. Sweet potatoes, marshmallows, cornmeal to make cornbread stuffing, green bean casserole ingredients...none of it can be found here. But every year the Lord has provided the ingredients to pull it together.

This year we were honored to have 6 Turks at our meal. CC read a little bit about the first Thanksgiving.

And then the meal. I have never had so many guests, and I have sure never had so much food on my table.

This one got the camera for awhile.

Miss Middler and Sweet Cheeks went outside, gathered fall leaves, and created this display in our apartment hallway. I loved it

At one point, our discussion turned to Pinterest, and messy up-do's, and how one dad there knows how to create them, and then I said, "I am not even sure Ross can braid. Ross, can you braid?" He wanted to show us that he could. Firstborn marched right over and gave him the chance. He said he missed the braids like when they were little, where it had a rubber band at the top and bottom. She just had to get a picture of the finished product! (Notice CC peeking on!)

The kids enjoyed some games afterwards.

Here's the whole crowd.

And here's the reason we celebrate..."Isa" (Jesus-Turkish)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Funeral Reflections

Today we attended a funeral service which caused me to think much today.

This sweet woman, originally from Eastern Turkey, had a Bible in her home growing up, which was forbidden. Therefore, the family hid it in the bread dough bowl in the oven, should anyone ever come in demanding answers. All these years, she shone her light brightly in a very dark place. And now her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren all walk with the Lord, serving in several different ministries in very difficult places.

CC has attended a funeral here for an unbeliever. He continues to say that it was one of the saddest occasions of his life. This was different all together.

As we entered, we were given a small picture of her and a straight pin so that we could wear her picture for the day to honor her. I thought it was a very respectful gesture.

Directly in front of me were two rows of covered women, her neighbors of 45 years. Her grandson, a pastor, officiated. He told these neighbors, in a church for the first time, that "A" Teyze (auntie) had faithfully, weekly brought their needs before the church congregation for prayer. Behind them, I could see each one pull down her head scarf further and wipe her eyes. It was very moving. This godly woman had lived a life of truth and faith in front of them all these years. Now, even in her death, her light shone, as these women heard the message of faith with their own ears. Some believe in only building relationships and showing our walk with Jesus. Some believe words should always be spoken. What touched me today is that from her, even from her grave, they have received both.

We drove far outside of town for her burial. There is a new gravesite being dug with only a small row for Christians. She was the fourth Christian grave in a year (in a city of 6 million). A grave near her was for a baby boy, less than a year old. While she was buried, I held the arm of one of her neighbors, as the path up was uneven and rocky. I prayed for her as we stood together. We looked out to the mountain behind us, covered with the first snow of the season. How fitting. The day was cold, but not rainy. "Whiter than snow" came to my mind.

And as I process this tonight, realizing that I have been in this country long enough now to know people who are passing from death (here) to life (heaven), I am reminded of so many things.

Death has no sting.

Life is but a vapor.

I told CC on the way home to please not talk on and on at my funeral about what I've done here on Earth. Teaching, mothering, all that. Just share the Gospel, I told him, in every language present at my funeral.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Halloween 2014

We did staff house trick-or-treating again this year. It is SO fun for our kids to think of a costume and get to surprise their teachers with it!

CC is always in charge of Big Ben's costume. We have perfect slip-on, all-parts-included Batman and Spiderman costumes, but he wanted to be Indiana Jones.

I squeeze those cheeks everyday. Just try and stop me.

I suggested that Sweet Cheeks could dress as her American Girl doll. The doll dress was a gift from Mimi. Then one day we were given this beautiful dress as a hand-me-down and realized it was the exact dress as the doll's!

I loved Twinkle's costume. She was a Starbucks to-go cup. She even wrote that she was a Tall Caffeinated. Agreed!

Firstborn and Miss Middler went as the Sesame Street aliens. I LOVED their costumes and laughed every time I looked at them. BRRRRRiing!

Here's all our cute staff kids, including S and M's twins, who were back in town for one final day before flying back to Moscow.

Full bags of candy (including sweet homemade treats and smuggled in American treats) from thoughtful staff members made these staff kids feel loved!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Visitor's View of Turkey: More Hiking

We took them to Rose Valley. As you can see, the hike can be....strenuous!

M quickly learned that a head scarf can be very useful. Blocks the wind, blocks the sun.

S was very adventurous. He wound through the paths and caves, wanting to capture it all on his camera. It's pretty much impossible to capture the full effect.

Though we only had a short 36 hours with them in Cappadocia, we made the most of it and had a great time. Soon, we would leave them there, ready to fly out to Antalya the next morn. We said goodbye, thankful we'd get to see them for one last overnight after their vacation week. Then, we drove back home, ready to start a work week.
I am so thankful my good friend got to see a glimpse of my life.

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Visitor's View of Cappadocia: Greeting a New Day with Old Friends

Breakfast is my favorite in Cappadocia. Everyone sleeps well in the deep, dark caves. Then we awake and enjoy a Turkish breakfast together. The weather was gorgeous. Our guests had been up to witness the dozens of hot air balloons overhead, early that morning.

My beautiful girl.

Beautiful breakfast: fresh fruit, honey on the comb, bread, tomatoes and cucumbers, olives, nuts. All locally grown.

After breakfast and some good conversation, we loaded up and drove to our launch point for our second hike.

We brought some fresh grass to a horse, awaiting his riders for his daily tour.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Visitor's View of Turkey: Getting Us All Fed

After a full day of travel and hiking in the hills and caves of Cappadocia, we took them to the spot for dinner we've grown to love. The owner remembered us and welcomed us in. This simple place to eat offers good food at fair prices. And the all-you-can-eat oven baked bread fills up hungry kids! This oven is ancient, leftover from an original cave home from long ago. The new restaurant was built around it. I thought of the many families whose meal it served.

I made my kids order their own food in Turkish. I think I am going to do that from now on.

CC ordered Moussaka, an eggplant dish originally made in the Ottoman times.

Sweet Cheeks got manti. It was good, but not as good as Dostlar's manti back home in Ankara, she said.

S, M, and I all ordered the stew dish contained in a clay pot. The only way to open it is to break the pot.

They bring it hot out of the oven, then light it on fire for you before cracking it open.

After a long day of riding, hiking, and eating... was time to crawl in our caves for a good night's sleep.

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