Wednesday, October 30, 2019

A Young Couple Long Ago and a Future Plan

And so we come to the post where I need to tell you something. Over the course of the last year, the Lord has been steadily (and gradually, more clearly/loudly) telling us that our job here in Turkey is done. It's time to go home. I will admit there were some days and times over the years that I wanted to go home. But during those times, I had no indication whatsoever that it was God telling me it was time. I was just scared. Or homesick. Or down. Or whatever. But, now...after 17 years of living in Turkey and 6 years of living in Singapore before that...God is most certainly telling us that it is time to hand this baton of leadership to the next person. There are no bad things driving us away, just His still, small, but unmistakeable voice. His sheep know His voice.

Throughout this whole process, the Lord has really only said one thing to me personally. He said, "When it's time to go, I will tell Ross." And so for over a year, I have just prayed and waited. I was not certain if "time to go" meant soon or years down the road. But allowing the Lord to lead our family through my husband has been the dearest blessing to me. I have seen the destruction of marriages and families because wives do not allow their husbands to lead. They stay in the driver's seat, impatient and frustrated, all the while saying, "My husband is the head of our home." and yet their actions and words do not line up with this mantra. I so want the Lord's full blessing, and so I decided adopt the attitude "Be still and know that I am God."

I really can't begin to describe the fullness that is in my heart right now. To wait on God's timing and His words to us have meant that we've experienced blessing upon blessing. Slowly, the process began to unfold when God spoke to my husband last summer, then again last fall. In the winter, he ventured to tell me what was happening. In the early spring, he released it over to the Lord's control. In the summer, God was confirming over and over. It's overwhelming to think that the God of the universe is speaking to our little situation.

And so, this school year 2019-20 will be our last here. Because this is the Lord's doing, we are waiting on His direction. Thank you for reading about my adventures in Turkey and for the many words of encouragement you've given me over the years. I count myself very blessed.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Twinkle's Graduation

It's such a strange feeling, isn't it, for those who have done this? Your heart is so full of joy and pride in this little girl (or boy) all grown up and accomplished. This is what God gave you to do...raise them up. But also equally full of that relentless ache that it all went so fast. This is how I would describe Twinkle's graduation night. I felt the same way with Firstborn. But for her, it was "the first," and we felt so ready to launch her. This just felt a little like sand finding its way into the cracks and lines of my fingers, slipping away. This truly marked for me the years of launching my kids and how everything was about to change.

We set up a display board for Twinkle. It turned out so beautiful with her #9 jersey, worn for all her years 7th-12th, photos, her art.

Her graduating class was an unusual one, in that many of these kids stayed together at our school from elementary years on. They were truly unique in that way.

Big Ben paused to write a note to this sister he loves so much.

CC made his way to the stage, ready to begin the ceremony.

We begin with the junior class entering with lit candles to introduce the seniors who will follow. Miss Middler got to introduce her sister's class.

And then she came in. The smile says it all. I made it! I did it! She worked hard for those honor cords, which, at our school involves community service, GPA, and passing AP exams.

Her own papa handed her the diploma she worked so hard for.

And of course, when it's your dad, you get an extra hug.

Her speech was precious, full of gratitude and pointing others to the Lord.

It was a special night indeed. Many of these kids I have known since they had braces and pigtails. I was so proud to say I got to teach them in 11th grade, drive them home from late night tournament arrivals, bake them goodies, and check their essays, even after I was no longer their teacher.

We are so proud of you, Twinkle! You won't understand how much until you have a little blonde girl of your own, walking across that stage. We love you!

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Finishing Up the Year

I already knew at this point that I would be teaching one less subject next year. Because of some other demands to come (which I will blog about soon!), I needed to drop to 4 classes from 5. A new middle school administrator would be coming and could take the Bible class. I felt good about developing curriculum and getting the class ready for the next person, but also sad. I love teaching the Bible freely. And I love these kids. Even the ones not smiling. Even the ones acting crazy. They are the apples of my eye. I pray that something at some point will stay with them, and they will desire Jesus more and more. Here's a picture I took with them during my last class period.

My son will likely not know I posted this right now. One day he will be a man with a beard and a beautiful wife by his side. And she will be glad I took a picture of this secret admirer note and posted it here. Do you like me? yes ___ no ___ because you are so nice with your braces. p.s. you complete me

And this one. I have liked you for 4 years now. And I still do. (She just struggles to spell his name still.) These were both wadded up in his locker destined for the trash. But I smoothed them out and took a picture, like any good mom would do.

Right now he only has eyes for Gus the Great, to be honest.

I found myself snapping more and more pictures of my sweet babies. Two birds about to fly....let me freeze life, please.

Graduation Party for Twinkle Toes

We hosted an after church luncheon for Twinkle's graduation. We decided to serve one of her all time favorites...Turkish breakfast. I got the great idea to ask our Turkish friend if he "knew a guy," which of course, he "knows guys" for everything. We hired a man to just come and make as-you-want-it omelettes for our guests. He brought his own country eggs and chopped up ingredients. It turned out to be the perfect idea, as I only needed to prep the fresh and cold menu items. It was a big help to this working mama. I'm 100% certain I will hire him again.

I had sent some emails to far away friends and family, who mailed some sweet graduation cards to Twinkle. I clipped them all on this 1950's bike we somehow inherited. (I was told it was provided to Turkish laborers who needed transportation to the flour factories outside of town.) It seemed the perfect theme for our little girl who would soon ride away.

Gus the Great found a nice perch that morning on Twinkle's letter jacket.

And my good friend came early to help me get set up. She's not afraid to roll up her sleeves!

We took many lovely pictures that day of the people who love Twinkle and came to wish her congratulations. Just before the end of the party, I thought to ask someone to take a family picture of us.

Her last day of school!

Senior trip to the spot where the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas meet!

She has spent all her years from Pre-Kindergarten to her senior year at this wonderful school called Oasis. We are so proud of all she has accomplished....from youth group leadership, worship leader, captain of soccer/basketball/volleyball, The Queen of Hearts in the school play, (and a munchkin when she was little!), teacher's assistant, honor roll, and a graduate with high honors (which at Oasis, involves community service, passing AP exams, and good grades). But all of that matters less to me than her heart. She genuinely loves Jesus and loves others. I could not be more proud of this second daughter of mine who came to Turkey at 2 and 3/4 years old, never having had a haircut even. Go with God, sweet girl! We are behind you all the way!

Staff Banquet 2019

Our student body grew by 100 students this year. Have I mentioned that? We got up to 400 kids! So we also, by God's grace, increased our staff. This year our normal staff banquet venues just could not hold us all. So, we went to a fancy-shmancy hotel and had a lovely time! Our teachers are (clearly) not in this for the money, so we truly enjoy a once-a-year splurge on a nice meal out, compliments of the school. Here are some pictures of many of my buddies!

Here are all of my hall buddies. In this group are represented teachers in NILD, guidance counselor, high school English, Social Studies, Spanish, and ESL.

And here we are putting on as the middle floor police. Which we are.

These are our wonderful friends Pam and Jarrod. Pam is my Puerto Rican mama buddy, who teaches right beside me.

What a joy to have a picture made with our long time and precious Turkish friends Esmer, Nuray, and Serdar. They are like family to me.

It's such a fun night to get all dressed up, eat a meal together, and tell each other what a joy it has been to all work together this school year.

Don't these gals make me look good??? Our Turkish front desk gals. They are the first face everyone sees, and they are beautiful ones!
 My Tennessee BFF, who has been with me through thick and thin and is like an "aunt" to my kids. What would I do without Lori?

 This gal I have known since the first year the school opened. She opened her heart to my friendship, and the last 15 years has been a friend of friends.

I'm sad to post this picture, as my Danish friend, who didn't know at this time she would be leaving Turkey, has moved away. I miss her so much in Bible study!

This sweet gal encourages me so much! She is new this year, but she always has a word of encouragement and love for me.

And then there's this guy who I would follow anywhere in the world!

Time for Twinkle to Fly

Spring grew closer and closer to summer. Sweet Cheeks had her end-of-the-year band concert. She performed with her flute, and we enjoyed hearing her well-practiced performance.

The days grew closer and closer to graduation. I could not believe that the two year mark had come. I felt like I just launched Firstborn. Twinkle and I gathered pictures and her art work and all her million pins for sports (I told her she looked like a 5 star general!) We created a pallet board to display at a graduation luncheon I would soon host, then to later use at graduation night on her table.

She spoke at church on senior Sunday and shared where she would be attending university, and most importantly thanked our local church for their impact on her life since age 3 when she arrived.

I found myself wanting to capture little snaps of life here. We have a tiny (lovely) yard. And my kids are some of the most grateful and resourceful people I know. Here they have stretched garden hoses to make a four square spot. Their childhood reminds me of how we used to make things work before we had so much.

I found myself looking at pictures like these back before all her adult teeth were in.
And then as she was cleaning out her room, she found an old journal. We wrote in it from the time she was about 5 until she turned 10. In fact, the last entry was her 10th birthday. She would write a note to me and secretly leave it by my bed. Then I would write a note to her and secretly leave it by her bed. I'm not sure why we stopped. I suppose we both knew she had outgrown our little communication network. But I wrote to her one last time on her 10th birthday. Then she kept it, for a very long time. So just a few days before she was set to leave on her senior trip, she wrote back to me and left it by my bed. I suppose I had almost forgotten we once wrote to each other like that. When I read what she wrote to me, I cried like I had not cried in a long time. So much time. So fast. So much joy. So much change ahead. So much gratitude. So thankful to the Lord. She is walking with Him, and I believe she always will. And my job is done. I thought my heart would explode. I told her that no matter what I had to leave behind in Turkey one day, that journal would be in my carry on bag.

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