Saturday, September 30, 2017

Life 'Round here

This has been a very difficult season for me. I'm piecing together many things in my life, and so many of them are new pieces. I'm learning to live in Turkey without all my kids here. I'm learning how to communicate with my daughter across 8 time zones. And, at school, I'm learning how to teach high school English. This is new, as I was previously teaching middle school.

One day I left out at 7:30AM with the family, and it was the day my housekeeper comes. She had texted me to ask what I wanted her to make for dinner. Honestly, I never had a moment to send a note back. But when I came home, she had made me this lovely dinner of salad and lentil kofte. I almost cried. Her thoughtfulness ministered to me. I started sampling the kofte. My samples became a meal.

CC relieves some of his day-to-day stress with weekend bike rides. He sent me this picture from his Saturday morning bike ride. Wonder what this donkey would say if he could talk? ("Get outta my road.")

Here's a screenshot from a phone call we got to have with Firstborn.

One night I glanced out of the house and wondered if the sun was setting. It couldn't be; it was too late for that. We ventured out and realized some fires for clearing land had been started. Like good rednecks, we jumped into the car to go see!

Speaking of glancing out the window....usually I hear their bells first and know the sheep are back across the street.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Coffee Date at 6,275 miles

Ups and downs. That's what it's been like. For Firstborn, she's had mostly ups. She's doing great. She loves her Psychology professor. He's one-in-a-million and helping her to sharpen her worldview as he guides her class. (Yes, a psychology professor can be conservative. We found him. There's one.) Her Chemistry class is...well, challenging. Her English seems easy. She's making friends. She checking out churches. She texts us and on weekends we talk. We miss her.

One night of one weekend she was a little homesick. I know it must be hard to see friends calling their folks daily (which is hard because of our time zone issues) and even seeing them on visits already. I wish I could go! I'd go! But I can't. We talked that one night, and I told her to go on to bed and we'd text when she woke up.

When she woke up, I was having an afternoon Turkish coffee with CC just before I took him to the airport for his conference in Korea. She texted me a picture of her morning cup of study coffee. So, we had coffee together. Mine was sludgy, delicious Turkish coffee with a square of Turkish delight on the side (actually 2, but Big Ben had already gotten 1 of them). Hers was a smooth, comforting morning cup to go alongside her College Algebra homework. Somehow it seemed a little brighter after that. Each time I look her up on my "stalking app" I see the miles. 6,275.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

What I've Been Doing, Besides Teaching

This year is so very different. All my birds are not in the nest. One has wings, now. My dear friend has moved back to the US, so my days seem a little different in that regard. Additionally, I took on some new courses, high school courses, to teach. I've been deep in reading and grading papers. And it's been hot. SO HOT. I'm from Tennessee, so hot is normal. But here, it has usually cooled off by September. Hence, we have no AC units. But this week, mid-September, it's reaching 97 degrees still. 

So, the days seem a little hard. And hot. 

But there are some happy spots. One of them is in the form of this money, which I realize looks like Monopoly money. I found some cloth, stretchy book covers on clearance this summer and bought them all. Like 2 shopping carts full. I brought back 150 of them to sell to our students, because they are so simple to use and are unavailable here. I sold out in 3 days. Here's all the money I made. It's pretty much enough for me to take a short cruise. And I didn't overcharge! I sold it at the Amazon price without shipping. Actually, I tucked it away to give my two girls toward their senior trips. I'm feeling very entrepreneurial. 

I'm enjoying my students. They are highly motivated. They thank me after class. One boy, upon meeting me, took my hand and put it to his forehead, as he bowed. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. 

Did I mention it's been hot? This was indoors at my house! 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

First Day Pictures 2017

Soon it was time for our first day pictures!!! We are all adjusting to 4. 4, 4, 4....not 5. It's weird, for all of us. But here are my 4 that are HERE!

Twinkle, beginning her junior year. What a girl! So proud. So happy to walk through these next two years with her in high school! 

And my beautiful sophomore Middler! Every year, she says, people tell her she's changed the most. I know one thing that has not changed, her beautiful heart! 

Sweet Cheeks, how can it be? She's entering 7th grade!!!! She's ready, she says! 

And my boy Big Ben, who is a big 4th grader this year. 

And why can't I take a first day picture, too? 

Cappy was determined to come outside and show off for us as we boarded the van. She had a few back to school exercises to do. 

I even managed to get a first day picture of my handsome guy. 

Do well, you 4! Shine brightly! 

Happy back-to-school day! 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Summer's End

I was truly grateful for those extra few days afforded us by the government decision to start school later. I'd been gone from my family for 2.5 weeks, so we had some catching up to do.

On one of the final days, I drove Twinkle to a friend's house, with the intention of taking Sweet Cheeks to get a Starbucks drink afterwards. On the way, we got a flat tire, which derailed us for a bit. But we still made it later for a quick stop in. 

We also got to go have Saturday morning Turkish breakfast out. You just can't beat it; it's our favorite! 

We took one day off of the endless work at school and worked in the yard. CC uprooted a couple of small evergreens that did not fare well last winter and replaced them. I cleaned up the yard, and Sweet Cheeks ran out to find me some wildflowers, then planted them for me. We are just hoping CC doesn't start sneezing! 

Meanwhile, we get texts and pictures from Firstborn. She went to a friend's house for Labor Day Weekend. Looks like she caught some fun! 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Camping at Light Mountain part 4

We had planned to spend two nights, but the rain was headed our way, and the temps were going to drop into the 30's that night. So, we built our campfire and enjoyed the evening, then drove home after supper to our warm, dry beds!

We didn't leave until we made smores! They are a Turkish-crafted version, but they work. (Did you know marshmallows get their spongy-ness from a pig's snout? So they aren't sold in Turkey. These are made from fish gelatine! They don't taste like it, thankfully!)

On our drive home, our road was blocked by Bessie and her friends. 

As we drove into our city, the Lord gave us this beautiful sunset. 

Our camping trip was simple, cheap, and fun. And it helped my heart start to mend. We will find a new norm in our home, and Firstborn will continue trusting Him where she is. God is good! 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Camping at Light Mountain part 3

CC suggested a hike before the rain came, so we bundled up and went exploring. This land is part forest, part meadow. It was fun. The entire hike he kept saying, "Now there's your firewood, girls. Why didn't you come down here?" (Of course, that would have been quite the hike back up with an armload of firewood!) 

The tree behind Twinkle gave her antlers! I'm clearly sporting the camping look. 

There were so many beautiful spots. I was drawn to this fence, crafted from fallen trees by a local man. The color of the tree drew me in. It was almost a blue. 

And I took this picture of my beauties. It's the first time they've been a four-some in my picture! 

We found a wonderful stream. I almost thought someone had thrown a house broom into the water, but it was some type of wonderful water-loving plant with such a beautiful red hue. 

Big Ben would loudly announce EVERY time he had to go to the bathroom, NO ONE look. Which of course, he was just setting himself up for everyone to glance his way. This was his favorite spot because he could go and still watch up laughing at him. What would I do without my boy? 

On the trail, Sweet Cheeks found a jawbone and gave it to her brother. She finds everything in nature, which I never see! Papa reminded him of Samson, killing so many with the jawbone of an ox! 

She also spotted a hummingbird which was a) the smallest I've ever seen, and b) the only one I've ever seen in Turkey. 

We found a beautiful waterfall. 

It was a fun hike! And the Lord held off the rain for us. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Camping at Light Mountain part 2

It seemed to me that the meal prep and cooking it over the campfire was our favorite part. I know it was for me! The girls helped me slice potatoes and layer them on onions, green beans, and sucuk (Turkish spicy sausage). 

We took some pictures for Firstborn and sent them to let her know how much we were missing her. She analyzed them all and sent comments back, like, "Ahhh! The Prague hat!" 

Big Ben has not slept a day in his life alone once he came out of his crib. It's terrible, I know! We've warned him that this is the year. Firstborn is gone. He's almost 9. It's time! 

50 feels like it would be pleasant, but it felt cold! Our tent is designed for 4 people, 2 in each of the side compartments. But we sleep 6 (used to be 7!) in it, so I always sleep in the center area. It's not as well insulated. So, 50 feels cold up on that mountain! 

I had cooked some ground beef and added sausage spices to it. Then Sweet Cheeks cracked my eggs and poured them in a water bottle before we left. Breakfast was a cinch! 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Camping at Light Mountain part 1

With our few extra days, we did a lot of working at school. There's so much to be done, both because of student number increases, and because of the size of our campus. But we did decide to get away for two days and go camping. It's now or never with camping because we are gone in the summers when the weather is warm. Very soon when we return, the temps drop low at night. Even in August, it was getting into the 40's at night at our camp spot.

It was a beautiful drive and reminded me of the many reasons I love this country. 

Whenever we go out of our city, I pass these little towns. There's always a mosque. 

This is the little community just down the hill from where we camp, roughly two hours from our home. This does not appear on google maps. It just has a sign, which means in English, "Homes in the Meadow." I've grown to love this little town. I believe it is a logging community. 

We got there and set up the tent. It was warm and felt wonderful to be outside. Sweet Cheeks quickly found something, a skull of a small animal. 

Soon we had some grazers near our tent. 

We went on a quick evening hike before we began our campfire. 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

From Here to There

I'm just going to go ahead and get real here. This has been one of the hardest weeks of my life. I flew back in expecting to start school 36 hours after landing. But the government made a "last minute" change to the school schedule, which ended up giving us the week off. I have absolutely no idea how I would have started teaching 36 hours after landing, with my heart torn apart and still jet lagged, so I truly believe that every teacher in the country received that gift because God loves me!

It gave me a few days to get curriculum orders processed, which is big this year as we've had a sudden influx of students and are starting the year at an all-time high. I was able to map out my literature, grammar, and writing goals and timeline for the year for my classes (remember I'm taking on 3 new high school courses this year...credited courses, so I've got to put on my big girl pants and make sure those kids are earning their credit!)

But all the while that this is going on, I sank into, I think, one of the saddest times of my life. I've had to say goodbye before. I've also had a "thorn in the flesh" issue in my life for a long time. So, I've been sad. But this was different. I have a friend here who is in a horrific situation involving her child. Basically, she was awarded custody, but because of diplomatic immunity and unethical practices, she does not have him. She is here, waiting day after day, to get her boy back. We pray for her daily and support her, but what can you say to a situation like that? It's just terrible. And so when she passed me in the hall, she hugged me and said, "How are you?" I said, "It's hard." She said, "It's separation from your baby, Sara." Bingo. Her separation is wrong. Mine is right. But that statement put one puzzle piece together in my brain. It's just going to be sad.

So, as I said, I felt like I was sinking. I'm an optimist. I'm a go-getter. (Why else would I have survived 20 years overseas?) Why couldn't I snap out of this? And then the other puzzle piece was put into place. And it didn't fix anything, but for some reason being able to piece the two together has helped. Here it is. In a minute. (!)

This summer has been a series of "notes from God." The first one came in the form of a horrible accident that happened at the beach. Right in front of our hotel, a retirement-age, woman, pedestrian from Tennessee (vacationing) was hit by a car (driver had been drinking). She was at a cross walk. This happened while we were having dinner. When we walked back to our hotel, she was already covered. We didn't even know where to cross, so we asked a police officer what we should do, and he walked us across. Firstborn and I were shaken up, and said to each other, "What if that had been one of us?" She said, "If that had been you, I wouldn't be starting college." I said, "If that had been you, I wouldn't be going back to Turkey." I kept thinking of her family, her children. Their sudden loss.

And then, another note from God came in the form of my sweet friend Leyla. She is a Turkish woman, my age, who cleans my classroom. We have conversation, and when I lost weight, I gave her all my hand-me-downs, so we became friends. This summer, her 20-year-old son, set to fly to Europe and begin his university work, was driving, hit a street cleaning truck, and was killed instantly. She only got a phone call to come to the hospital. When she got there, they took her to the morgue. I went to find her as soon as I got back and threw my arms around her and just sobbed. Can you imagine? Can you even imagine? She told me the next day that after we talked and cried, she had a tiny bit of peace in her heart for the first time since it happened a month ago.

So, what are these "notes from God" teaching me? Two groups of people experiencing extreme, unmeasurable sorrow. And God has placed me in a unique position right now to understand "a mother's heart" on a level I have not before. I can minister. I can love. I can listen. I can understand a tiny bit more, but not fully. I can share coffee and tears when my turn at this is over, and someone else's is beginning. And of course, the reminder that "Life is short. Live it for the Lord." is obvious.

And so, the other puzzle piece? In my sadness this past week, the Lord brought to mind this: This is a new sacrifice I have not yet had to make. That's it. I guess I thought the sacrifices were over. Learning to live in a culture where you don't always know what's being said? Got that. Not being able to shop at Walmart and get the things you need easily? That's been over a long time. Missing football and Fall and Thanksgiving? Hard, but have been doing that awhile. Goodbyes at the airport, knowing you won't see them for a year? Still hard, but manageable. Saying goodbye to friends who leave here when I stay? Hmmm. That's still hard, but I'm working through it. But this? Not having each member of my family here with me? That's totally new. And it's hard. And it's ok to admit that. I do NOT want her here. I want her there. But it's hard for us to be here. And I guess after 20 years of serving overseas, I feel like it's ok for me to say that.

So I put those two things together: "It's separation from your baby, Sara. It's a new sacrifice you haven't yet had to offer." And putting some words to what is going on in my heart has helped me somewhat. I feel like the sun is starting to rise, ever so slightly. I feel better today than I did a week ago.

I told her I will take a text or a picture of her and what she's wearing 24 hours a day/7 days a week. She sent me these the first week. I had asked her as I boarded my flight in Houston, "What's one thing I can pray for you?" and she said, "Pray I don't die in this heat!" ha ha ha. She's been super happy for the cooler weather that has allowed her to wear her long sleeves. She's going to miss our cold weather. 

And I sent her this picture of me missing her one morning as the sun rose. When I wake up, she's tucking into bed. When I finish teaching, she'll be waking up.  

It's different. Big Ben took her spot at the table. The teen girls immediately snatched up the middle seat in the van. Last night Sweet Cheeks was snuggling Firstborn's "lamby" which Grandma bought for her at age 2, when it was bigger than her. 
She is missed. And I trust that my heart will learn to survive. Please pray for me. I realize I'm not the first mama to drop a kid at college. It's just the first time I've been 6000 miles away from her. 

Site Meter