Friday, September 30, 2016

Black Sea Break 2016: Let the De-stressing Begin!

We literally had no agenda, and as such, the stress of the previous week began to melt. We had a tiny balcony with a beautiful street surrounding us. Directly behind us was an ancient church-turned-mosque.

The little old lady across the street lined her rock wall with eclectic plant containers. She had a toilet, boots donned with bows and stick-on eyes and smiles, an old vacuum. It was adorable. She got out and tended to them each morning. No one walked down our street without stopping to take a photo of it.

We hit the beach after we got settled in. It.was.cold.

And it was different. We've traveled to the Mediterranean Sea coast many times. It's very Turkish and European. This was very Turkish. Only. Hence, we saw many women swimming in full body coverings.

Sweet Cheeks was content to make sand castles for as long as we stayed.

We found a restaurant with the prices on the menu. And the prices looked ok. So, we ate there. And as we always do, once we find a good restaurant with good prices on the menu, on vacation, we eat there every single night. This embarrasses our children to no end. Because of course, we are always recognized as foreigners, so they greet us with, "You're back!" They said all kinds of things about us, like "They must be from Germany." and, "No, I think it's Russia." and, "Are all those kids theirs?" and, "The foreigners are back." And of course, my older girls can understand them now. It's fun. Well, it's fun for CC and me. We think it's funny.

The sunset over the Sea was beautiful!

I like this picture. I like to see CC smile. He'd had a rough few weeks.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Black Sea Break 2016: Arriving in the Town

As we got closer to the Black Sea, only about 4-5 hours from our city, we began to see different flora along the road. As we drove through one town, children came up to the car to sell simits, little ring-shaped, sesame seed covered breads, which cost about 30 cents. Warm still, they were the perfect snack to hold us over.

We went inside a long tunnel, and when we came out,  this is what we saw. We were mid-conversation, and this hushed us all.

The town was packed, and we knew it would be. But our vacation time was centered on a Turkish holiday, so we would share the town with our fellow Turks. We booked a little rental apartment, cheaply, but with 2 bedrooms and a couple of sleeper couches. This was our view out the den window!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Black Sea Break 2016: Getting There and Our Hitchhiker

Just on the heels of our approvals for school to open, and the emotional and mental relief that all of that was behind us, we had a Turkish holiday ahead of us. We waited until the very last minute to plan something, unsure of what would happen with the school. This year, we are really trying to focus our time on, "What do you want to do, this last year, with all 7 of us still together?" The kids unanimously wanted to drive to the Black Sea. The last time we went there, Firstborn learned to tie her shoes, and Miss Middler still used a pacifier. It was time! And it's a relatively easy drive and holiday to plan.

We loaded up. Our driver, intent on studying google maps, did not want to be part of our launching photo. :) But we love our driver who gets us everywhere we need to be!

The drive is beautiful! As soon as you get out of the city, the land is just covered with trees. Consequently, we see logging trucks, logging towns, and log houses. These little villages, tucked away by themselves, never cease to pull on my heart.

They are always clustered together with a local mosque.

After our turnoff from the big highway, we passed a little old man with his thumb stuck out. I just had that feeling, "Stop for him." I mentioned it to CC, who had the same thought. We backed up on our highway. Yes, that's done here. CC got out to talk to him and find out where he needed to go. It was right on our way.

He got in the car, then looked at me, then looked at the kids. Then he did it all again. Then he asked if they were all mine. "Yes, sir." I replied. He took it upon himself to advise CC multiple times about how to get to the Black Sea. He also told CC where to slow down for mountain curves. He rode with us about a half hour before we got to his village. Firstborn asked him if we could take his picture. He happily obliged, just after patting my head like I was 5 years old. He told us if we ever came back, to come have tea with him. We told him to have a happy holiday and that Jesus loves him.

Monday, September 26, 2016

On the Road to Bolu

We landed back in Turkey. I have a warm memory stored of all 7 of us going out to eat some pide (the unanimous vote!), then seeing all that CC had done on the campus over the summer. He was proud to show us; we were proud of him. We strove to stay awake each day so we could sleep on schedule each night. My days consisted of staying home in the morning (and enjoying things like canning some of the fruit our yard was producing) and working at school in the afternoon. The work at school was endless! It was like peeling an onion. Just more and more. We were all waiting and praying that our approval to open our doors at this new location would be granted by the authorities.

All of the staff left for a 3 day, back-to-school, spiritual emphasis retreat in beautiful Bolu.

We passed village after village.

It's such a beautiful drive. Even the drive began melting off some of the pressure of not knowing if we'd open our doors as hoped and the overwhelming exhaustion of all the work going into being ready to open the doors, should that be granted. We enjoyed time to sing and listen. It seemed through this we were able to remember that God is in charge of all that stuff. Our job is to just be His sheep and listen.

It was a lovely few days. I was able to get to know some of the new teachers. We got to pray in our new prayer groups. We played ultimate frisbee and took walks. And we were fed from the Word. We worked through some of our school-related meetings. We truly didn't have time to get away with all we had to do. But we didn't have time not to. Does that make sense? We needed it.

Soon, we headed back home. I snapped this lovely picture. All of these ladies waved at me and smiled after I took their picture.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Summer 2016: A Wrap

I wanted to get a picture of the grandparents and all the beautiful grandchildren. All 14!

And then three little girls wanted us to see their little forest home they had created back in the woods.

And then it was time to go. Summer flies by. Bags, loading, tickets and passports, a good breakfast for the trip. And goodbyes.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Summer 2016: Squeezing In Some Finals

The three girls had the wonderful opportunity to fly to Philadelphia to spend a week with my aunt and uncle. They got to do a whirlwind tour of Philly, DC, and NYC. They saw museums, monuments, a Broadway show. My uncle's generosity was a highlight of their summer. It was the first time I had ever put them on a flight alone. They did great! Their week flew by, they returned, and it was time to wind things down for the summer. We tried to squeeze in some lasts....

Here are some fun last photos I took from our fun last hour at the swimmin' hole.

It makes my heart so happy to see these genuine smiles. Not the shy smiles and slightly fearful smiles from when these boys first arrived in country, but the real ones that say, "I am loved. I belong in this family."

I love all these kids!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Summer 2016: Celebrating MQ

It was our joy to be in Nashville during the time of MQ's baby shower. We love celebrating her life and her adoption into our extended family.

Here are all the girls in the family.

And three generations with my sweet mom holding her. (Is MQ laughing or crying?)

And this one never minds getting in grandma's lap.

I love real pictures. Not fake. Real laughs. Cute girls.

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