Friday, June 1, 2012

"Only be thou strong and very courageous"

Friday, May 11, 2012

This Evening's Meditation

C. H. Spurgeon

"Only be thou strong and very courageous."—Joshua 1:7.
UR God's tender love for His servants makes Him concerned for the state of their inward feelings. He desires them to be of good courage. Some esteem it a small thing for a believer to be vexed with doubts and fears, but God thinks not so. From this text it is plain that our Master would not have us entangled with fears. He would have us without carefulness, without doubt, without cowardice. Our Master does not think so lightly of our unbelief as we do. When we are desponding we are subject to a grievous malady, not to be trifled with, but to be carried at once to the beloved Physician. Our Lord loveth not to see our countenance sad. It was a law of Ahasuerus that no one should come into the king's court dressed in mourning: this is not the law of the King of kings, for we may come mourning as we are; but still He would have us put off the spirit of heaviness, and put on the garment of praise, for there is much reason to rejoice. The Christian man ought to be of a courageous spirit, in order that he may glorify the Lord by enduring trials in an heroic manner. If he be fearful and fainthearted, it will dishonour his God. Besides, what a bad example it is. This disease of doubtfulness and discouragement is an epidemic which soon spreads amongst the Lord's flock. One downcast believer makes twenty souls sad. Moreover, unless your courage is kept up Satan will be too much for you. Let your spirit be joyful in God your Saviour, the joy of the Lord shall be your strength, and no fiend of hell shall make headway against you: but cowardice throws down the banner. Moreover, labour is light to a man of cheerful spirit; and success waits upon cheerfulness. The man who toils, rejoicing in his God, believing with all his heart, has success guaranteed. He who sows in hope shall reap in joy; therefore, dear reader, "be thou strong, and very courageous."

Well, Um Tulip needed this message today.  Cultural Whiplash has descended into extreme frustration.  Career, housing, and education for our children are all changing at this time. I have struggled with insomnia and anxiety, and have certainly not felt very strong or courageous.  I am thankful for a God that does not see my struggle as a small thing, yet is ever present.  If you are one of my few but faithful readers who prays, please pray this into my life, and any other friend you know who is discouraged.  May we all reap in joy!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Cultural Whiplash: Part IV Timing is everything

With Abu Tulip traveling I haven't had much time for posting.  Between a new boss at work, new grade levels to teach, three amazing boys at home to care for, water pumps breaking, choir rehearsals and my church responsibilities, things have been hectic.  I mentioned to a friend the other day I usually shower on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays.  She laughed at how scheduled my week it.  I was looking for (and found) a place to shower as we had no water at the house.  Pure survival right now.

Abu Tulip was at this conference Bethelehem a couple weeks ago and you should watch this video.   I am a Palestinian Christian.  One bit  of cultural shock for us in America was how many Americans do not know that Palestinian Christians exist, or believe they are an invented people.  Many of my closest friends are part of this amazing, resilient people group and have all my respect for finding hope in the midst of conflict.

Teddy Bear turns six today, and it was also Mother's Day this week.  I am in such awe of my three beautiful boys and how they are growing, learning, and the joy they bring to my life.

Last cultural whiplash bit was yesterday at the Mother's Day party for Linus' nursery school.  I asked when it would start, as I had just gotten to the nursery a few minutes late from the scheduled time and needed to grab Teddy bBear from his kg classroom.  "In 5 minutes" and "now" came out of the mouths of two teachers at the same time.  "now" in Arabic bascially means 5 minutes.

Gotta go because I'm supposed to be somewhere "in five minutes".   Um Tulip 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Cultural whiplash: Part III


In Michigan, 1-2 inches of snow doesn't make headlines.  We don't even think about it.  Here?  The city shuts down as if 3 feet of the beautiful, white, fluffy stuff has graced our neighborhoods.  Abu Tulip used a squeegee to scrape slush off our porch and stairway.  The roads (narrow, steep, etc) cannot handle even a little snow so we're hanging out at the house today.  Glad to have time with my boys.  I've been crazy busy learning the curriculum and adjusting to teaching 7th and 8th graders.  Quite a change for me, but I'm glad to have a teaching assignment.  We're teaching the 8th graders the song "We didn't start the fire".  Hoping to reach the students with the song, have some discussions about the Arab spring and how we can contribute towards the peace process in the region.  Ambitious?  Yep.  Worth it?  Yep.    ~ Um Tulip

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cultural whiplash: Part II

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the vast difference in planning between my passport culture and adopted home.  Here's an examplanation.

Oliver went to school in Michigan this fall for the first time.  A couple weeks before school we went in and finished his enrollment papers, got information for the start of school, etc.  We had a "back to school night" where he received all his supplies, folders, and the classroom was ready and neatly labeled.  One thing he needed was a physical.  The first doctor I called didn't have an opening until January (it was August).  I was able to talk to a friend who got me in to see another doctor in October.
I had hoped to sign him up for little league soccer.  I was told registration finished in June and there was no way he could be allowed in, even though we had just moved to the community.  Planning is a must there.  Time is rigid, and exceptions are simply not made.  The benefit is I had clear information before starting school, and knew what to expect.  Still, I was frustrated about soccer and getting him a simple physical.

Now we're back home.  I tried to go to school the week before the new semester to get materials I needed for Oliver.  No one around who could answer my questions.  I also have taught at this school for three years.  I tried to find out a little information about my job, as I was guaranteed a teaching job upon my return.  No such luck.  My key still worked, so I was able to bring some of my materials.  We're now in day four back to school.  I've been many hours organizing my files, preparing my classroom, and talking with staff.  I've helped out in classes, and had a blast reconnecting with my old students.  Still waiting on a specific job description.  Oliver got his schedule and today I finished getting his books ready.  Still haven't had to worry about paying tuition, as the school knows me and it will get taken care of soon.  I needed  to get him in for a dentist appointment.  Called the dentist.  "How about tomorrow?"  Great.  No worries, just name the time and he's there.  We're also getting ready for baseball.  Abu Tulip is a T-ball coach.  Last year we were still adding new players two weeks into the season.  Ahlan wa Sahlen!  I'm frustrated by the lack of organization at times, but it's also a relief to just "go with the flow" and let things work themselves out. 

Trying the remember the positives about both ways of doing things, and hoping for a great semester back at school.

~ Um Tulip

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Cultural whiplash: Part I

After a six month hiatus, I'm hoping to actually rejoin the blogging world.  I've been following my faves all season, but didn't have the emotional energy to actually post.  Reverse culture shock is a complicated bear.  We just got back home after spending six months in the states.  There have been so many things I've thought about posting, but haven't.  Maybe I'll make good on my New Year's resolution to post about all my cultural observations.

Talking with a friend a couple weeks ago gave me the perfect title, and last night I found the perfect image.  Cultural whiplash describes for me the experience of going back and forth from a lovely but overly WASP area of America, to our bustling city in the heart of the Arab world.  Two lovely places that don't really understand each other, but places I love dearly, and am proud to call both home.

My boys became enamored with angry birds this past season, as it has inundated American culture.  We have the card game by the makers of UNO, the plush toys, and a "real" game with plastic figures and beams so you can re-create the hit game played by young and old on smart phones, tablets, and computers.  Last week the boys threw their plush toys off the top of the bunk bed to knock down structures, a normal fun activity for my kids.  However, this time they told me they were playing "angry birds".

I still don't really understand why the birds are angry, but cultural whiplash is indeed full force.

                                                                                     ~ Um Tulip

Monday, July 11, 2011

Switzerland or bust 2011

We just got back from our long awaited family vacation to Switzerland.  We had planned this trip in 2009, saving up money and time for our 10 year wedding anniversary.  As life doesn't always work out the way we hope, last summer Abu Tulip's dad died suddenly and our summer plans changed quickly.  This year has been an emotional roller coaster for us all, with loss overshadowing some great experiences of living in the Middle East.  In just over a week we'll head for an extended stay in America.  We're looking forward to being close to family, and curious about how the reverse culture shock will play out in our kids.  As I won't be teaching this semester, I hope to take time to post more often and more than that, pause and reflect on the journey we're on.

Here are a few pictures from our trip.  I wish I could post them all, but I honestly don't think my few readers really want to see them as much as I'll enjoy talking about them.

The first night there we were blessed with a rainbow.  I took this picture from the window of our room.  Seriously.  The reminder that God is faithful through every storm has stuck with me throughout our travels.

We took a walk through the village after the rain cleared and came upon this covered bridge.  I turned to Abu Tulip and said, "it's hard to even imagine evil existing after seeing this".  Just a public road with such extraordinary beauty.  The care the community puts in to tending to their gardens.  No litter, no broken down benches.  Just a small village that cares about creation and welcomes visitors to meander along the roads and take it all in.
A few days later we took a train and then a gondola up the mountainside for a 6 mile hike to a lake.  We were in First, and although the hike was exhausting with 3 boys, the views were breathtaking.  We all earned ice cream from Migros Supermarket back in the village after that day.  

The second half of our trip took us to the village of Monstein, near Davos.  This is the interior of a church built in the 1600s.  the village currently has 180 inhabitants, and our Australian friends who live there have built an amazing community.  Each day people dropped by to chat, invite children over to play, or literally borrow a cup of sugar.  I sat in the church alone for quite some time, just imagining what it might have been like to worship here during a particularly harsh winter some 400 years ago.  We were up at an altitude that was likely unreachable many months of the year, yet the Swiss work ethic and determination has certainly paid off, making it such a prosperous country.

A few patterns that caught my eye.  I'm not an experienced photographer, and I just have a regular point and shoot camera.  I'm afraid my pictures of the alps, while amazing to me, aren't near the quality you can find in other places.  So often as we hiked around, rode in the trains, or just looked out the window, I'd comment that there was no way a camera could even capture the sights.  Snow-capped mountains, green pastures, majestic peaks and deep valleys.  After seven years of living in a desert country, it was a feast for the eyes!

These next few pictures show the ceiling of the church, stacks of wood ready for winter, cobblestone pavement, and a stain glassed window that is over 400 years old.  As Teddy Bear told me on one hike, "Mom, there sure are a lot of mountains in Switzerland.  Like 152 of them!" 

One day we headed up to an alp, the green pastures high in the mountains where farmers take their cattle in the warm summer months.  We made a small fire to roast sausages right among the cows.

Our final hike was from the Rinerhorn back over to Monstein.  We rode the gondola up with our friends, and they went back home with our kids via gondala and car.  Abu Tulip and I hiked several hours alone.  We never saw another person, just continually took in the majesty of the mountains.  We finished the evening with our anniversary dinner at a village inn.  Traditionally Swiss food including, rosti, which is like hash browns, pork, veal, potato soup, and impeccable service.    As much as we love our three active boys, having a few hours alone is a rare pleasure and it was great to catch up and reflect on the past year.  It hasn't been an easy one, for sure.  We are thankful for our three healthy boys, for the adventure of raising them in a bilingual / bicultural setting, and for the perspective that being American in the Arab world brings.  We are blessed with many loving friends and family members, and a choir community that fills our days with singing and laughter.  Our church communities teach us more about what we hope to be, and our continual need for grace.  We are weary, and utterly dependent on our creator God for all things.  If He created these mountains, with all their peaks and valleys, He is sufficient.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Going to the farm and another concert you don't want to miss!

One of the favorite activities of a lot of local families is to travel out of the city to the family farm.  Usually this is a few acres of land owned by several family members collectively, and Friday afternoons are a perfect time to grill some meat, drink copious cups of tea, and enjoy time away from the busy city.  We are blessed to have some local friends with a lovely farm not too far away.  A couple weeks back we joined them for burgers. Spring is a perfect time to do this, as the summer has not yet scorched the land and the green is luscious.  Of course, if you are allergic to the olive trees like me you better take some extra meds, but it's well worth it.  I'm not a fantastic photographer, and have a simple point and shoot camera, but I'm super pleased with how my pictures turned out and so I'm sharing them with you!

This is roasted hamli. What is hamli?  Fresh garbanzo beans.  The taste is a bit like fresh peas, and it's hard to believe these are the same beans we dry and make hummus out of.  We bought them from a farmer off the side of the road on our way tot he farm.  Super yummy!

The roses were falling of the stems and so beautiful.  We took a bunch of petals home and they perfumed our home for a week.

 Grape leaves.  Reminds me of a song we sang in choir -  "Bayn iddawali".  By the way, go to for more info on our next concert, Lamma Bada.  Arabic folkloric music with some great percussionists.  Rehearsals have been so much fun, learning choreography and working with props.    I love this choir and can't wait to perform next weekend.  It will be an unforgettable concert.

 They grow their own mint.  Try tearing off a few leaves and placing in boiling water for a perfect cup of tea.

 The figs weren't ready to eat, but will be great later on.

Little olives just starting to grow.  The blasted pollen from these trees are killing my sinuses right now, but you can't beat local olive oil!

I think these are green cherries, but I'm not positive.  Feel free to correct me.