Great is His Faithfulness

All bundled up in blankets and my cozy Boston jammies feeling blessed in Prishtina Kovova DSC08986

I woke up this morning humming a tune.  “Great is thy faithfulness, Oh God my father, morning by morning new mercies I see.”  Oh, and we do see His mercies every morning here.  “All I have needed they hand hath provided.” This school is a testament to His provision. “Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.” Wow! What a great way to wake up – knowing and feeling His provision and faithfulness.

Back in November we were especially feeling grateful. The school has benefited so much from the faithfulness and generosity of so many people. The management team of the school decided that it was our turn to go to an international conference to promote the school and look for teachers.

The conference is held each year in a different location in the US to showcase work being done throughout the world.   It is a great place to network and let people know about our school in Prishtina. The conference lasts 4 days with main speakers about twice a day and classes on specific subjects throughout the rest of the day.  Also there is a huge hall full of hundreds of booths to introduce people to workers from around the world. Thousands of people attend each year.

One of the main conferences.  The speaker is way up there by the green lights - you can see this is a well attended event.

One of the main conferences. The speaker is way up there by the green lights – you can see this is a well attended event.

Next year the conference is in Richmond, Virginia – you should plan on going, it is very inspiring to see what is happening out there away from our comfy homes.  It might motivate you to come to a place, like say Prishtina High School, and help our kids.

On November 7, our tickets were booked, we said our good-byes, telling everyone that the school would be fine while we were gone, and off we went.

Our first stop was Boston, but then it was off to the conference in Columbus.Our friend Pat met us at the airport with a smile, a plan for lunch (Max and Erma’s we highly recommend it!) , and a tour of downtown to get us situated before we headed off to the hotel.

The next morning it was the to get our booth all set up and ready to greet people passing by.  We took a tour of other booths to see what was going on.

We found booths after our own hearts. Kosovars consider themselves Albanian.

We found booths after our own hearts. Kosovars consider themselves Albanian.

Booths set up to promote camps

Booths set up to promote camps (uhmm- no that is not a real fire),

And work on reservations

And work on reservations

More camps

More camps

Africa, I believe

Africa, I believe

Well, you get the picture.  Our little booth seemed kind of modest, compared to some, but it made a great home for a few days. DSC08913

I think next year we need to do something involving popcorn.  This was a very popular booth!

I think next year we need to do something involving popcorn. This was a very popular booth!

We made some great contacts over the 4 days.  We found a few people who might be interested in coming, and  many teachers who had friends they would pass our information on to. We talked to 3 universities who would like to work with us by helping our teachers further their education (on-line) and by encouraging their students to think about the possibility of working overseas for a bit after graduation.  All in all, it was a great few days of networking.

You can help also!  We are still looking for teachers in mathematics, English, science and social science for next year. We have wonderful teachers at the school who first learned about us at the international conference. If you know of young people, graduating from college and looking for an adventure, tell them about us.  If you know of teachers looking for a change in location.  We have a great place.

Another side benefit of being there was that we got to see some friends and family.

My brother Brad attends each year to represent CDF. The organization he works for.

My brother Brad attends each year to represent CDF. The organization he works for.

One day Brad came to get me to bring me to meet someone he said I hadn't seen in 45 years.  Sure enough - there was Randy Richardson, the son of the man who pastored our church when I was just a girl.

One day Brad came to get me to bring me to meet someone he said I hadn’t seen in 45 years. Sure enough – there was Randy Richardson, the son of the man who pastored our church when I was just a girl.

We even got to meet friends from Facebook in person for the first time.

We even got to meet friends from Facebook in person for the first time.

As we walked around in our free time, we got to talk to people from Team Expansion and Master Provisions, we met board members for the first time and met the couple responsible for organizing shipment of containers full of equipment to our campus. People whose generosity and purpose we feel every day.  For once, we got to say thank you – in person.  Truly morning by morning new mercies we were seeing.

One morning we had a fun surprise.  A man stepped into our little booth.  I said,”Can I help you?” and he just stood there.  It took me a few seconds before I realized it was my cousin, Derek, who I hadn’t seen in a couple of years.  You know, the father of Gretchen, who painted that amazing picture.  He thought it was hilarious that I didn’t recognize him right away, but it is a matter of context I tell you :]  We had a great time catching up a bit and then I asked about Gretchen and that picture.  Well guess what.  He told me that, Sophorn, the young lady in the picture, was there at the conference!

Derek and the girl in Gretchen's painting.  How amazing is that!

Derek and Sophorn, the girl in Gretchen’s painting (How amazing is that!) I just love her smile.

She was one of three girls featured in a documentary made by Rapha House called “Finding Home” which was being shown at the conference.  I must say that Rapha House sells beautiful things made by the girls whose lives they literally save, if you would like to find some beautiful, meaningful Christmas gifts, look here.

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The girl in the middle, with the big smile, is Sophorn.

Another great thing at the conference happened Saturday afternoon.  At our end of the building there was some very loud hammering going on. DSC08927 It turns out that these teenagers were being taught how to build a wall.  Each group of kids were working on a wall and there were many groups. DSC08925 At the end of the day the walls were put on a truck to be shipped off to a Children’s Home in Oklahoma where they will be put together to make a new home for orphaned children.

This organization builds homes, not just for orphanages, but for many other needs.  Pretty cool.  The group doing this will bring wood to any group who wants to participate and let whole communities in on the fun.  I am sorry to say that I have lost the name of the organization, but if you would like to do this, contact me and I will find the information for you.

Then at the other end of the building whole families were filling meal bags.

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Luckily I got a picture of this one. Ides is an organization dedicated to disaster relief.

They filled the bags,

They filled the bags with multiple grains, spices, and soy product.  One teenage girl I talked to said that they had eaten this for breakfast.  She said it was actually pretty good, it was the consistency of oatmeal, but tasted a bit like chicken soup.

and sealed them up.  These [articular bag were being loaded into boxes to send off to Haiti.

Then sealed them up. These particular bag were being loaded into boxes to send off to Haiti.

Again, IDES will set this up in your community, if you’re interested, you can contact them directly.

As you can see, the conference showed us truly, “All we have needed, the Lord’s hand hath provided.” It was so very touching and inspiring to see all that is going on in our own backyards and around the world.

There were some other highlights that were just side benefits of being in Columbus.  Lunch at North Market for instance. DSC08968 North market is a building full of deliciousness!  There are 35 vendors who sell all things wonderful and food related – my kind of place.

Dishes and gadgets

Dishes and gadgets

Fresh produce

Fresh produce

Beautiful flowers (OK so you don't eat those, but you do make centerpieces with them :} )

Beautiful flowers (OK so you don’t eat those, but you do make centerpieces with them :] )

And what’s for lunch?

Choices,

Choices,

Choices,

Choices,

oh yeah, choices!

oh yeah, choices!

Barbecue - Oh yum!!  So good, we had it two different times.  That is saying something since we had a limited amount of meals to get all of our American food cravings in.

Barbecue – Oh yum!! So good, we had it two different times. That is saying something since we had a limited amount of meals to get all of our American food cravings in.

And on Sunday we hitched a ride out to Fairfield Church North Campus, where Derek is now the pastor.  A side note – John and Ruth, our dear friends and fellow workers, were the pastoral couple here when this building was built many years ago. What a fun coincidence. DSC08942

Derek's wife, Brenda and his son, Gregory led the worship.

Derek’s wife, Brenda and their son, Gregory led the worship. I took a couple of pictures of Derek preaching, but they are both fuzzy – I think he moves around too much :]

After church we went out for Mexican food (the love must run in the family!) and had a great time talking and talking about what is happening with each of us.  What could be more fun.

Later in the week, after the conference, we awoke to this one morning. DSC08950Pat and Bob had loaned us a car, but we decided to spend the morning in the hotel.

Working and

Working and

well, you can tell by the picture what I was doing :]  Thanks to Derek for the Sees candy!

well, you can tell by the picture what I was doing :] Thanks to Derek for the Sees candy!

Later we decided to venture out.

Uhmmm - this is something we haven't done too much in our lifetime.

Uhmmm – this is something we haven’t done too much in our lifetime.

What would make us leave the warm hotel to venture out in the cold?

This place of course.

This place of course.

Where we could find

lovely fish pillows and

lovely fish pillows and

this.  Yes, that is a dead dear the mountain lion is getting ready to eat in that tree. Sigh.

this. Yes, that is a dead dear the mountain lion is getting ready to eat in that tree. Sigh.

OK – I have to confess, I got the best socks ever here and Ted picked up a shirt or two. Oh, and that place was not far from this place.

No, not the Cheesecake Factory (although that is a good place) the other place.

No, not the Cheesecake Factory (although that is a good place) the other place.

We walked around the mall oohing and awing – fun day. DSC08965The next day we drove out to the Amish country, where apparently I took exactly 0 pictures (sorry), but we loved the beauty of the drive and even in all that snow we saw some buggies out for a ride and got to visit some cute stores. Yes Columbus was a beautiful and inspiring place.

By the time we got ready to leave this reminder was on display.

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness,
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

DSC08985   I do need to say that while we were having a lovely time in the states, the school (that we promised would run smoothly without us) did have a couple of hiccups.  While we had two teachers who had medical problems which could be addressed in country, we had two other teachers need to leave the school. Our Algebra and Geometry teacher needed to leave immediately to attend to personal concerns and Kara, our middle school math and science teacher, made the decision to leave in December for health reasons. We will miss them both.

But, as we know, “All we have needed Thy hand hath provided”.  Last summer we made the decision to hire two Social Science teachers when we really only needed one.  It turns out that one of those ladies is able to teach in the high school math position. And I am available to fill the middle school math and science position.  The good news is that before we even knew our needs, He took care of them.

The school did well without us, when needs arose, they stepped in and took care of them. How blessed we all are. Yes, we have “Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.”  Great is His faithfulness!

Boston & a Birthday

Listening to Christmas music, and getting ready for Tuesday Night Dinner

15745063416_06f39e022c_zI always love Tuesdays because of Tuesday night dinners; staff gathered around the table for nothing more than good food and warm conversation.  The number one rule?  No talking about school.  Now that is hard sometimes, but we mostly hold to it and we have all gotten to know each other and love each other so much more over these dinners.

Tonight is special though because, not only is it the last dinner before we break for Christmas, and the last dinner that our dear friend Kara will be with us for awhile (more on that next post), but dinner involves CORN TORTILLAS and REALLY GREAT SALSA (from a mix sent to us by our friends Steven and Jenny. You MUST order some – really! It is super easy to make and it reminds us of the best restaurant salsa from home – which is saying a lot)!

Most of you know by now how much I love and miss corn tortillas (no, I can not make them – it is quite a process), so I am sure you are wondering where I got my hands on enough corn tortillas that I can even share them with my friends.

It all began back in November.  Shortly after I returned from my trip to Greece (to see the one and only Beth Moore!), Ted and I headed off to the states.  Yes, as in United States of America! Our intended destination was ICOM – a conference to help us in recruiting teachers and networking with colleges among other things – in Columbus, Ohio. Since there is no direct flight from here to there, we just had to land in BOSTON!  Which is not only one my favorite places to visit, but even better, is home to our daughter, Katie and her husband, Nathan.  OK -OK, I know we could have landed somewhere closer to Ohio, like say Chicago, but Boston was a great plan, don’t ya think?

Our first stop was Istanbul where the airport has things like this

DSC08818

and this to keep you busy during the wait for your next flight.

DSC08819 I have fallen in love with Turkish Airlines.  Within 5 minutes of being on board they come around with a candy called Turkish Delight that is, well, delightful and the service just gets better and better from there.  The meals actually begin with a warm towel to wash with and have real silverware – like the chrome metal kind! They give every passenger (not just those in first class) a little tin box filled with comfy socks, toothpaste, lip gloss and an eye mask for sleeping. And they set out snacks and drinks if you need something between the yummy (for airline food) meals.  If you ever get a chance, you should fly with them. OK commercial over (and no, they did not give me a free flight for that commercial, but they should :] )

When we landed in Boston there were big hugs and lots of squeals (from Katie and me, Ted and Nathan wanted me to be clear about that) as we raced through the airport.  Where was our first stop, you ask?  Here, of course!

Well, maybe not, of course.  I am sure many of you could think of other places to stop, but we really wanted a hamburger and fries that tasted American.

Well, maybe not, of course. I am sure many of you could think of other places to stop, but we really wanted a hamburger and fries that tasted American.

Then it was off to Katie and Nathan’s cute place.

DSC08832No, they don’t live in that whole place.  Actually the building is a church. Yes, like an active, meets every Sunday (and some days in between) church. See those windows at the tippy top?  Katie and Nathan rent an attic apartment from the church and those windows are theirs.  The advantage of walking up 4 flights of stairs to get home?  Your view out the window looks like this.

Pretty nice, wouldn't you say.

Pretty nice, wouldn’t you say.

Such a cute little apartment surrounded by such beauty.  Made me want to move in, but don’t worry kids, I will resist.

While in Boston we spent lots of time walking through the neighborhood

DSC08833and shopping

Yea! Costco!!

Yea! Costco!!

We came with extra suitcases, just ready to fill with warm coats, new jammies, and lots of other fun stuff, like corn tortillas (you just knew I would get back to those!).  Actually I must note that Costco in Boston does not carry corn tortillas.  Can you believe it!!  But, Katie took me to her grocery store to get some, so all was well.

We also managed to get in a dinner at this place.

The one on the left, but I did think that it was strategically located - don't you?  Dessert just waiting for us next door.

The one on the left, but I did think that it was strategically located – don’t you? Dessert just waiting for us next door.

Where we had this

Tacos with corn tortillas filled to the brim!

Tacos with corn tortillas filled to the brim!

with such good company.

DSC08836

Doesn’t that just make you want to smile.

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We went to Nathan’s favorite breakfast spot one morning.

DSC08825

Where Ted indulged in a real fluffy American omelete

DSC08827 (1)

and I had hazelnut crusted french toast with wild blueberries.

Ted's omelet may have been heavenly, but I think I won the best breakfast award!

Ted’s omelet may have been heavenly, but I think I won the best breakfast award!

But really the most fun thing was that we were in town for Katie’s birthday. Hooray! Yes, my little girl turned 3 again, because that is how old she was the first time I turned 35.  And as we all know, that is the age I have decided to turn in February.

 

Well, maybe she isn't 3, but she will always be my baby.  Oh and may I take this opportunity to thank our son-in-law, Nathan for the use of some of his pictures on this post.  Those pictures that are fuzzy, underexposed, or look like the photographer doesn't know what they are doing (like this one) are all mine.  The beautiful, carefully thought out pictures are Nathan's. Thanks again Nathan.

Well, maybe she isn’t 3, but she will always be my baby.

She opened some presents.

Janelle, Katie's mother-in-law always sends the prettiest packages.

Janelle, Katie’s mother-in-law always sends the prettiest packages.

A new Dutch oven from her loving husband

A new Dutch oven from her loving husband

And a Turkish "pomegranate" vase from us.  We won't discuss the fact that ours was wrapped in bubble wrap and a bag.

And a Turkish “pomegranate” vase from us. We won’t discuss the fact that ours was wrapped in bubble wrap and a bag from the store where we bought it.

We worked on a birthday cake together.

Yes, a s'more cake.  A recipe that Katie made up and it was as delicious as it looks. I will give you the details below.

Yes, a s’more cake. A recipe that Katie made up and it was as delicious as it looks. I will give you the details below.

Then it was off for a day of seeing Boston sights.  We started off at Dunkin’ Donuts where this is always a good sight.

DSC08849 I got a hot chocolate and a pumpkin donut too because we all need a good 2nd breakfast to start the day.

DSC08851Then we took a walk through the Commons

15148806144_f1b8a02534_zPast the families playing.

I just love that they don't rake up the leaves, but leave them for families to play in.  Have I mentioned before that I love Boston!

I just love that they don’t rake up the leaves, but leave them for families to play in. Have I mentioned before that I love Boston!

Took quite a lot of pictures.

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The frame is there for just this purpose. The post is lined up perfectly with our legs, so it looks like it isn’t there (thanks Nathan for the great picture)

Stopped for a rest,

15766909051_b524f72c12_zAnd took in the sights.

A one man band

A one man band,

A Veteren's Day parade (Shhh - her brother's think after all of these years that we get a day off because of Katie's birthday!)

a Veteren’s Day parade (Shhh – her brother’s think, after all of these years, that we get a day off because of Katie’s birthday!),

and these guys.  I don't know - I didn't ask.

and these guys. I don’t know – I didn’t ask.

We took a stroll past Katie and Nathan’s church

Yep, the one they attend, not the one they live in.

The one they attend, not the one they live in.

and picked up sandwiches for a picnic in the park.

DSC08855

Oh yeah!

Oh yeah! (Oh dear brothers who run our cafeteria, can you make me one of these for lunch today?)

We ended our little tour with dairy free ice cream – yum

DSC08887

Katie is allergic to dairy, but Nathan has managed to take good care of her and find just the right places to pick up yummy treats for her.

That night we were off to PF Chang’s to celebrate

DSC08891

Yummy food and good company!

Yummy food and good company!

Then it was back home for that cake!

DSC08901

The next day it was up and off to the conference (new post coming soon!).  Yep, we had a super fun few days with our kids. Can’t wait to do it all over again.

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Thanks to Nathan for letting me steal some of his pictures from Flikr. Any pictures that are beautifully composed are definitely Nathan’s.  The fuzzy, out of focus, off center ones belong solely to me :]

 

 

For all of you wondering about the cake.  Well, here is how we made it (well, Katie made it and I helped)

S’more Cake

Make a graham cracker crust in the bottom of two 9 inch round cake pans (if you need a recipe here is a good one – you do not have to refrigerate the crust for an hour though).

DSC08840

If you are dairy free, like Katie, use dairy free margarine instead of butter. Good news the margarine is cheaper than butter :]

Then mix up a cake mix according to package directions.

Duncan Hines cake mix is dairy free

Duncan Hines cake mix is dairy free

Pour the cake mix into the two pans and bake at 350º for about 30 minutes, until the top springs back when touched.  Let the cakes cool in the pans for about 5 minutes and then take them out of the pans and cool them crust side down.

Looks good already - doesn't it?

Looks good already – doesn’t it?

While they are cooling, mix up some 7 minute icing (you can find that recipe here)

DSC08892and some yummy chocolate ganache – melt chocolate chips and add just enough cream (or almond milk, if you are dairy free) to make it creamy and smooth.

DSC08894

Then start assembling

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Icing on the bottom layer

Ganache . . .

Ganache . . .

and icing on the top layer

and icing on the top layer

There you have it – oh yum!

DSC08903Enjoy!  I know we did :]

 

 

 

Wishes of the Heart

DSC07562Sitting at school, counting my blessings, Prishtina Kosova

Greece, one of my favorite places. A six hour drive (kind of like from Chino Hills to San Francisco) through chaparral and blue shadowed hills brings you to the turquoise water of the Aegean and the beautiful city or Thessaloniki (again, kind of like the drive from Chino Hills to San Francisco).  I have been there a couple of times since we have lived in Kosova.

I have visited the ancient ruins of Pilippi with Ted

DSC07449and wandered through Stobi with Mom and Patti (OK – Stobi is in Macedonia, but it is on the way to Greece).

DSC08329I have eaten Greek food with friends in Kavala

DSC07514and enjoyed the bounty of American franchises in Thessaloniki.

DSC07541Yes, Greece is a wonderful place full of memories of ancient times and pleasures of modern times.  But this past weekend was a bit different.

Sure I managed to down some of these guys

1491587_10205119542012797_283938516290026854_nwith good friends.

10418417_10205130208879462_1164781631598860557_nand we did have Greek pastries

10171780_10205130202759309_2242092085254918349_nlike chocolate filled DONUTS for breakfast!

10411771_10205130206399400_2299757248315230226_nYes, we even managed to hit the highlights of TGIFridays for d-unch

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Oh yeah!

Oh yeah!

And we even made a trip to this place for Chai Tea Latte.

10629783_10205130201279272_4624301282092627276_nBut much as I love all of that, those things are not the reason we headed to Greece last weekend.  The trip actually began with a Bible study.  Last summer Maureen began leading us in a Beth Moore Bible study based on the book of Daniel. Why Daniel? Because someone had given Ruth the study and some books that we could use and we thought why not?

A few weeks into the study I began seeing friends of mine on Facebook saying that they were getting ready to head off to hear Beth Moore speak in San Diego.  I remember thinking, “I wish I could have one of them tell Beth how much she blesses our little group of ladies in this far away place through her study and her words of encouragement.” Not to worship at the feet of Beth Moore, but because she helps us worship at the feet of our Father and sometimes, even the encourager needs some encouragement. But really, could any of my friends get close enough to Beth Moore in a stadium size audience to talk to her personally? Well, maybe I could write her a letter. Hmmm like a letter could even get from here to there and into her hands. Oh well, I thought, that is that.  I will just tell Our Father how much I appreciate His words through her and that will be enough.

But, Our Father knows the desires of our hearts.  Even when we are just wishing, he listens to us.  A week ago Monday sweet Heather came to the Bible study and said, “Guess who is going to be in Thessaloniki in November — Beth Moore!!” We all started screaming at the same time – oh we have to go!!  So, Heather said she would check into it. But I am going to be in the states for much of November (more about that later), so I figured they would be going without me.

Then on Tuesday Ruth came by the school to tell us that we would be heading off on Friday – yes, that fast!  Beth Moore was speaking at a conference on Saturday and Sunday.  Quickly arrangements were made for some of us to stay with friends in Greece and for a rental car from Skopje (Ruth and John’s Kosovar car can not enter Greece without paying a huge insurance bill because Greece does not like Kosova – my friend Maureen says that they act like a bunch of Jr. High students around these parts, so true).  Then on Friday right after school we headed out on our big adventure.

Three of us stayed at a cute little apartment between two flower shops

1969369_10205129724107343_2648963036633733806_n

and just down the street from this place, good location!

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Have I mentioned that Greek pastries taste as good as they look?

After a late arrival on Friday night, we were up bright and early Saturday morning to get to the Olympic Sports Museum for the conference.  Once inside the cosy little room, we noticed a huge screen and the fact that the room had about 270 seats (yes, I counted – I am my daddy’s girl). So, we prepared ourselves.  Often in these parts things are not what they seem.  We figured that we were probably going to see a live feed from somewhere  else. After all, we had only paid 5 Euro to get in.

Well, at least there were instruments on the stage and we had also been promised a group named Hillsong leading worship. While I had not heard of Hillsong (since I am an old lady and apparently not with the times), the other ladies were excited about that.

So worship began

Hillsong - London.  Great group, VERY loud and enthusiastic worship.

Hillsong – London. Great group, VERY loud and enthusiastic worship.

and someone in our group said. “There she is, in the front row!” yep, Beth Moore was there in person.  Again, we weren’t there to worship Beth, we were there to worship God, but I so wanted to be able to let her know how her message blesses even small groups of ladies is places that she would have to have a map to find.

Turns out that we were at a conference for Zoe church, a small group of churches based in Sofia, Bulgaria,  Warsaw, Poland, and Thessaloniki, Greece.  We began the day being led in the word by Jo Ramos, from City Church, Seattle speaking about the paralyzed man whose friends did what they needed to do (letting him down through the roof) to get him help from our Savior. Sounds like good friends to me – the kind of friends who would do anything for you, kind of like my Bible study ladies here.

Then after a break, Beth led us in a study of Ephesians 1:1-6, telling us that we are blessed by God (wasn’t that what I wanted to say to her?).

68139_10205119545292879_3482058029884603915_nThen we had our d-unch (I know, TGIFridays – don’t judge – when you have been out of the states for awhile, real American food is just amazing!) and returned for an evening session with Christine Caine – founder of Zoe Church and of A21, an organization that leads women out of sex trafficking. She spoke on First Kings 17 about the time Elijah asked a woman to bake him some bread with the little oil and flour that she had left. Christine reminded us that sometimes Our Father takes very unlikely people from very unlikely places and has them do very unlikely things with a very unlikely outcome so that only He can be glorified.  We looked at each other thinking – sounds like us, right?

I was sensing a pattern.  Our Father was speaking right to me.  Me – a highly unlikely lady in a highly unlikely place who is truly blessed by great friends who are working with me for a highly unlikely outcome. What a great day of singing and teaching and just being filled to the brim with good news.

But that was just the beginning.  On Sunday morning we arrived to find the reason that Beth Moore had made the long trek – at her own expense we had figured out – to Thessaloniki.

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Two years ago she had come to Thessaloniki to begin writing her study on Thessalonians. During her stay she met Christine Caine and had formed a bond with the Zoe church.  This trip was to tell the church that they had been in her heart the whole two years she had been writing and not only that, but she had dedicated her study to them, the church of Thessaloniki.  She then proceeded to preach to the Thessalonians out of the book of Thessalonians (how cool is that), reminding them of their roots and encouraging them to grow and become the “mothers and fathers” of a great church. She called for a great revival in the entire region, which I would say would include Kosova. Such a moving morning.  She ended the day by asking all of the people who lived in Thessaloniki to come forward so that she could pray over the church of the Thessalonians. Wow!

Beth introduced the group, "May I present the church of the Thessalonians."  They are all holding her Bible study of Thessalonians that has been , at her request, translated into modern Greek.  She left plenty of books and the CD's with Greek subtitles for the church to use to bless people.

Beth introduced the group, “May I present the church of the Thessalonians.” Again, all I can say is, Wow!    They are all holding Beth’s study of Thessalonians that has been, at her request, translated into modern Greek. She left plenty of books and the CD’s with Greek subtitles for the church to use to bless people.

If that wasn’t more than enough, at the end of the day, we made our way down to the front to see if we could get a picture with Beth Moore.  Ruth had had a chance encounter with Beth earlier (in the bathroom ;] ), so we sent her in the lead.  Of course Beth was gracious and let us silly ladies crowd around her.

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Then I just felt I had to say it.  I had to tell her.  Those of you that know me well know it is not like me to walk up to people I barely know and talk to them, but I felt this tugging so I touched her arm and as she turned, I quietly said, ” I just need you to know that we are a small group of ladies from Kosova working with you through the book of Daniel. I want you to know that you have truly blessed us with this study.  We live in a land that is mostly Muslim and in these days, that is not always an easy thing, but you have helped us to have a bright spot in our week. You have helped us to understand the commitment Daniel had  and that it needs to be our commitment too.  Thank you.”  Well, maybe I wasn’t that eloquent, I am sure I mostly babbled, but Beth*  and I both had tears in our eyes and I knew Our Father had taken care of my smallest little wish.  Isn’t it so humbling to know that the Father of the universe, knows our smallest thoughts and the wishes of our heart so well.

It was a weekend to end all weekends, such great teaching, such great worship, such fun company. Praise His name.

* By the way, my friend Maureen told me that since Beth put her arm around my back for the picture, I may now call her by her first name :]

Two Delicious Dishes, One Delightful Day!

Lindita's Mother-in-law making avjar on a lovely September day

Lindita’s Mother-in-law making avjar on a lovely September day

Sitting, drinking cocoa, watching the snow come down, in my cozy living room, Prishtina, Kosova

Last week, as I sat chatting with students, one of them asked me what is my favorite Kosovar food.  “Ajvar!”, I said without hesitation.  I love that lovely stuff.  It is roasted red peppers cooked into a perfect sauce.  It is used to spread on sandwiches, as a dip for bread, as an ingredient in spaghetti sauce. I even use it to thicken up my homemade tomato soup.  Yes it is versatile as well as yummy.

September is canning month in Kosova.  Ladies spend long days pickling peppers and making ajvar (eye-var) – enough to last the year.  This year as September came near, I asked Lindita, our school receptionist and neighbor, if I could get in on the fun when they made ajvar.  I need to know how to make that stuff because someday we will move home and my ready supply will be gone (picture a grocery isle filled with choices of barbecue sauce – now change that to choices of ajvar, get the picture?).

So, one Friday Lindita told me that the next day would be the day.  To come on over and she would help me learn to make perfect ajvar. And now, you lucky folks, I am about to let you in on the secret! I would print a recipe for you, but like all good traditional food cooked from the heart, there really isn’t a recipe.

Here we go!

First of all, you need to buy about 40 kilos of red peppers. That is about 80 lbs for all you non-math people out there – yes, that is a lot of peppers!! When we go to the bazar in September there are cars lined up, trunks open full to the brim with peppers.

After you return from your adventure at the bazar with your car full of peppers, make a fire in your wood burning stove (Don’t have one of those? Lindita told me a barbecue would work almost as well. The wood smoke is part of the whole deal). Lindita’s family has a wood burning stove in their basement for just this purpose.  It keeps the big mess out of their super tidy kitchen.

Once the stove is all heated, you cook red peppers (whatever kind you like, they can be hot or mild – I like the mild kind myself) on the top flat grill until they are nice and charred.  If you have cooked Mexican food, you know what I mean. Nice and black all over.

There is even a tool to take the stem and the seeds out of the pepper - quite nice when you have 40 kilos of peppers to attend to.

There is even a tool to take the stem and the seeds out of the pepper – quite nice when you have 40 kilos of peppers to attend to.

Some people add eggplant to their ajvar, but Lindita says the traditional way is without eggplant.

I personally like the eggplant.  It has little taste, but it makes the sauce ricer and thicker.

I personally like the eggplant. It has little taste, but it makes the sauce thicker and richer. It doesn’t need to be cooked, just cut it into chunks.

The next step is to take all of the black charred skin off of the peppers – this takes awhile, but is lots of fun if you have ladies sitting around talking with you while you work. DSC08622 Then it is time to get out the old meat grinder.  You know, the kind your grandmother had and is still in the back of your cupboard because of all the memories.

and you get the whole family in on grinding up all those peppers.  If you have eggplant, just plop the chunks in there to be ground up too.

Get the whole family in on grinding up all those peppers. If you have eggplant, just plop the chunks in there to be ground up too.

Sometimes the peppers need a little help going through. A tap with the end of a wooden spoon will help.

Sometimes the peppers need a little help going through. A tap with the end of a wooden spoon will help.

Now it is time to put all that yummy goodness back onto the wood stove. DSC08615 It needs to cook for about 3 or 4 hours on a very low heat.  After it has cooked for about 1 1/2 hours, add some bay leaf, some salt, and some chopped up garlic. DSC08627 While all that yummy goodness is cooking, it is time to start chopping some more wood because . . .DSC08651we are about to make some fli (flee)! Yes, fli, Kosova’s national dish and since we are already out back, and the ajvar is cooking away, why not? Pile up that wood, DSC08625 and get the ash can out,DSC08626 we are about to begin.  Once you have a bit of a fire going, pour ashes on top of two lids, and put the lids on the fire to heat up. DSC08631Once the lids are heated, mix up a batter of flour, water, and salt to about the consistency of thin pancake batter.  Then, place a fli pan flat on level ground (you might need a brick or two to get it level) and cover the bottom of the pan with cream. DSC08649 The cream is like creme fraiche, the container looks like this:

just in case you wondered.

just in case you wondered.

Then spoon the batter in “spokes” over the top of the cream. DSC08633Once you have the spokes made, put a hot lid on top.  Do not put the fli pan on the fire, just put the lid on the top of the pan.

A pitch fork works well for this step.

A pitch fork works well for this step.

See, the lid on the pan, the pan is not on the fire.

See, the lid on the pan, the pan is not on the fire.

Ok, so why the second lid?  Because at this point you can start a second pan, that gives the first pan a chance to cook a bit. Once the batter is cooked, place the lid back on the fire to heat up DSC08643 and put some more cream on the cooked batter spokes. DSC08638Then fill in the spokes with more batter DSC08642and put the lid back on to cook this batter. Then check the second pan and add cream and layers to it. Keep rotating lids on the fire, adding cream and spokes of batter until the pans are full of layers. DSC08645 While all this is going on, don’t forget to stir the ajvar every once in awhile. DSC08644 Finally, after all that time and all that love, it is time to eat. DSC05869You can cut it into pieces to serve, DSC05874but traditionally, the diners just reach in and pull off layers and enjoy.  Oh, and don’t forget the olives, picked peppers, and the freshly made ajvar. Yummy, yummy!  We had such a delightful day followed by a delicious dinner.  Thank you Lindita.

Now I just have to get her to teach me how to make those stuffed bell peppers that Ted loves so much!

Inspired by Our Father

10448757_655715710069_8810849315269801187_nDrinking tea at our favorite little retreat in Skopje, Macedonia.

3 months!  Yes it has been over 3 months since I have last written.  Wow!  Time sure does fly.  Actually, I have been thinking about this lately. A lot.  Why has it been so long?  I am sure you are wondering too. I have been perplexed, but I have come upon a reason.  First, though, I must tell you about Gretchen.

Gretchen is the daughter of my cousin, Derek and his wife Brenda (does that make her my second cousin or my first cousin once removed? Hmmmm). Nearly 3 years ago she felt called by Our Father to begin painting a 5 foot by 4 foot picture of a young Cambodian girl who had been sold into the sex slave industry.  Gretchen was inspired  to call attention to this horrific industry.  Gretchen said it best herself in an interview done by “Wood TV” in Grand Rapids,  “She was sold when she was about 14,’ said Lauer. ‘She was told that she was going to be a waitress so she got in the cab and when she got to the Thai border she found out that was not the case.” This story is happening over and over throughout southwestern China and southeast Asia. It is a cause near and dear to our hearts because most of the children sold as slaves in southeast Asia originally come from the very area we lived in in China

The thing is, Gretchen has had one art class, way back in high school :] (yes, she is just a youngster to me, but that was a few years back) and according to her, she got a C.  Our Father called her to do something that, I am sure, was completely out of her comfort zone. And she did it.  This year she finished the painting.  Then she did something very courageous, she entered it in ArtPrize, Grand Rapids. ArtPrize is a huge art exhibition that occurs every year in Grand Rapids.  Art is displayed all over the city – over 1500 entries spread over 174 venues all over Grand Rapids (sounds fun – we need to put that on our bucket list!). Most of the artists entered their art in the 2D category, paintings, just as Gretchen did with her painting, Outcry.

Well, a few days ago the winners were announced and guess what, Gretchen won her category! Yes! The best of the paintings, based on popular vote, was Outcry. Does this surprise you? It didn’t surprise me.  Gretchen was doing something that stretched her far beyond her means, but she felt called by our Father and she answered that call.  Because of that, through many interviews and through this prize, Gretchen has gotten her original message out.  She has called attention to sex trafficking in southeast Asia. But most of all, she has honored her Father in Heaven.

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Gretchen and her proud parents in front of her painting Outcry at ArtPrize in Grand Rapids.

In some small ways, I feel like this blog is like Gretchen’s painting.  While I do not have the large public venue Gretchen had, I am doing something that stretches me and pulls me a bit out of my comfort zone.  You see, I am not a writer by nature.  Just ask good old Mr. Kemper, my 11th grade composition teacher, he continually gave me C’s because I continually was unable to put my thoughts down on paper coherently. So, when I began this blog over 3 years ago (Yikes! 3 years!), I asked Our Father to give me words, to help me express to my family and friends the thoughts and emotions going through me as we traveled through this adventure.

Since that time, every time I write, I pray for help and every time, He inspires my words.  Do not think I am saying that my words are inspired as those of the Bible. No, those are the words of Our Father.  I mean He gives me the words to express my thoughts and my feelings in a good, understandable way.

Then, last July it just stopped.  Literally stopped.  I was in the middle of a blog about the visit we had with my mom and my Aunt Patti when I just couldn’t get the words down. I was writing and it just didn’t make any sense.  I put it away for awhile and I just couldn’t come back.  Every time I tried, I just couldn’t write.  It wasn’t like writer’s block, no it was different than that.  I had plenty of ideas to write about.

Brett and Susie got married in China.

Brett and Susie got married in China.

Mom and Aunt Patti arrived in town

Mom and Aunt Patti arrived in town

We all took a really fun trip to Greece.

We all took a really fun trip to Greece.

We welcomed back old friends and welcomed new friends to Kosova (Jackie - on the right - is Mrs. Zeqiri now, and Maureen is our new English teacher)

We welcomed back old friends and welcomed new friends to Kosova (Jackie – on the right – is Mrs. Zeqiri now, and Maureen is our new English teacher)

We moved some of the library and

We moved some of the library and

set up classrooms.

set up classrooms.

I learned to make ajvar

I learned to make ajvar

and fli - all in one day.

and fli – all in one day.

We had our share of dog problems

We had our share of dog problems

and I finished a long awaited embroidery project.

and I finished my own mater piece, a self designed embroidery project, not as big or as striking as Gretchen’s, no message to be learned, but it decorates my kitchen quite nicely.

Yes, I had plenty of ideas.  I just for some reason I couldn’t get them down in writing (I promise I will get to some of them soon). It was like 11th grade all over again!

Then, as Ted and I were chatting on our way to Skopje this weekend (where we came for a much needed rest), I stumbled upon the reason.  Ted asked me if I felt, as he did, that we were no longer staying in Kosova, but we were living in Kosova.  The difference being passing through vs. making this our home.  I really think that Our Father knew that is what I needed this summer, a time to make Kosova home rather than just a place to be. So, He didn’t give me words to write. He gave me quiet peace.  No taking pictures just for the blog; no thinking, “What would all those reading think of this?”  Just being.  Learning what it was like to live here as a home, not just a place to pass through.  So, no words, no thoughts, just living for a summer. We have found a home here, a place to snuggle down and be content.

Just as I pray that Gretchen will continue to paint, and listen to His message, I will continue to write. Yes, I will stretch and write and live and love, in our new home, Kosova, inspired by Our Father.

 

Friends, Silver and Gold

Lu, 3rd gradePrishtina, Kosova

When I was a third grade girl, all dressed up in a brownie uniform, my troop leader taught us this song:

Make new friends, but keep the old
One is silver and the other gold.

Did any of you sing that song in your youth?  And did any of you wonder, as I did, which was silver and which was gold?  I was never sure about that.  But one thing I am sure of, new friends are a good thing – most of the time.

Over the past few weeks, Ted and I have had quite a few friends show up at our door.  It all started in the midst of summer sports camp.  We had almost 200 kids here for a couple of days playing games and just having kid fun. It was all organized by a team from Germany and sailed along very smoothly.

Hockey in the parking lot

Hockey in the parking lot

and some sort of frisbee game in the gym were just a couple of the many things going on around the property during sports camp.

and some sort of Frisbee game in the gym (look, can you find the Frisbee?) were just a couple of the many things going on around the property during sports camp.

About that time, our fridge went on the blink. When I mentioned it to Lindita and Luli (year old friends- they are true gold), they asked if, since it could only be a year old fridge, didn’t it have a warranty? When I said, no we bought it refurbished, they both literally rolled their eyes and sighed in unison.  Lindita made a call and a few days later Ted and I opened our door to one of our new friends, Mr. Refrigerator Repairman.  He took one look at the thing and decided that he needed to take it to his home to work on it – huh?  Yep, to his home for an undetermined number of days.  Luckily, Lindita volunteered to keep our frozen stuff for us and the school has a fridge for lunches and stuff, so we could keep things cold in that.  Yes, that meant running back and forth dodging the sports camp kids every time we needed something from the fridge. Life is never dull around here.

So, while Mr.RR was busy working on getting our old friend the fridge working, these guys showed up at our door.

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Yes, the lovely Elizabeth and her handsome husband Sam the Music, Math, Social Studies, Drama teacher. They came by to say goodbye (sniff, sniff, we will miss them) because they are off to new adventures in the US and possibly France.  Anyway, they also came by to bring me a new friend.

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Yep, if you guessed sourdough starter, you would be right. Which, you may know, has to be kept in the fridge. You know, the one that our friend Mr. RR had taken away. Anyway, when I talked to Liz about adopting the starter, I told her I have been known to kill starter in the past.  I told her all about the friendship bread back in the 80’s (do you remember it?) that was more like a friendship burden because I would never remember to stir it, feed it, hug it, kiss it, and do whatever else I had to do to keep it alive.  She told me that this would be much easier all I had to do was to feed her once a week when I was making things like pizza dough and English muffins with it.  English Muffins!!!  Ted and I love English muffins and haven’t had one in, well, years! So that decided it. Hello, new friend!

A couple of days later (after Mr. RR returned our fridge) I tried my hand at those English muffins and all I can say is WOW!

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I think Ted nearly fainted when he tried one.  Warm and fresh and crunchy, I am in love.

They are even better with strawberry freezer jam - thanks Ruth and Lydia!

They are even better with strawberry freezer jam – thanks Ruth and Lydia!

Then a week after that I made some pizza dough. Oh, yum.

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I think I am going to love my newly adopted friend, Miss Sourdough Starter.  I will try my very, very best to keep her alive – really Liz!

All of this brings us to someone else who arrived at our door.

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A few weeks back Ted and I were eating steak on the front porch when Ted’s new friend happened by.  Ted said that the poor guy was starving and we could at least throw him a bone. Then on our next trip to Viva Fresh, I looked in my grocery cart and saw that someone had mysteriously put dog food in the cart when I wasn’t looking. Hmmmm. Yep, I think Ted hasn’t learned life’s lesson, if you feed a dog, he WILL NOT go away.  So, we have a new friend. His name is Frodo.  He sleeps on the front porch, fends off burglars, and keeps Ted company wherever he goes.

Look at Frodo's face - doesn't he look quite contented?

Look at Frodo’s face – doesn’t he look quite contented?

And, he has a couple of friends that keep coming by to visit.  I think Frodo has been roaming the neighborhood telling his friends, “There is a soft touch in that yellow house over there; look pitiful and he will feed you. Just stay away from the wife. She will growl if you try to come into the house.”

After all that, we spent last week getting our guest room ready

Ted replaced this lovely light,

Ted replaced this lovely light,

I covered the blue wardrobe with contact paper to make it look like wood,

I covered the blue wardrobe with contact paper to make it look like wood (this is kind of a before and after shot),

and we made the beds up for some of our best friends ever!

and we made the beds up. All ready for company.

for by far the best friends ever.  I was so excited when they showed up at our door yesterday morning!  Well, OK we met them at the airport, but they did eventually make it to the front door.

Mom and Aunt Patti - two fun gals!!

Mom and Aunt Patti – two fun gals!!

I know they are relatives, but they are golden friends too.  I have so been looking forward to this day. Ask anyone who has been around me for the last couple of months! We are going to have sooooo much fun over the next few days, touring and eating (you bet, English muffins and pizza are on the menu!) and just relaxing together.

So, while will miss some of our golden friends like Sam and Elizabeth and we will enjoy the short stay of other golden friends like Mom and Patti, we will try to keep our silver friends Frodo and Miss Sourdough Starter alive and well. And, no offense Mr. Refrigerator Repairman, you are a nice guy, but I really hope we don’t have to see you again for awhile.

Oh and just for your amusement, my friends,

Why did the chickens cross the road?

On June 29 we were wondering, why did the chickens cross the road?

To wish Ted a happy birthday!

To wish Ted a happy birthday!

Love to all of you our friends near and far.  If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by, our door is always open to friends, silver and gold.

 

Dear Father

DSC05900Our Dear Father,

It has been quite a year.  One year ago today You led us here to this land, to this school.  We praise You and we thank You for this glorious opportunity to be built up, to be molded like clay, to lead and to serve.  You have given us so much this past year, sometimes it is beyond comprehending.DSC05827

 

You gave us a home,

 

 

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a school,

 

 

 

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and a country that we have come to love.  A place where we have learned greater love for people and greater dependence upon You.

 

 

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You gave us a dedicated, loving staff to not only work with, but to call our family.

 

 

 

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You gave us kids that at times were a bit crazy, but always fun. Sponges, there to soak up Your love shown through us.

 

 

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You gave us partners in the US, who love us. Some we have never even met, but still love us.  People like the members of a church in Kentucky who spent hours and hours purchasing and packing equipment to be sent to this place that most of them have never even seen, but still hold in their hearts.

 

 

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Places like a church in Southern California, who when we sent out the plea for a well, answered quickly and lovingly. Places like another church in California who knew we needed help with payment for accreditation and stepped up to help.  Oh Lord, you have had so many, many people and churches bless us.  Not just with needed money or things, but we could feel You, through them, telling us, when we needed it most, ‘keep going, you are doing the right thing’.

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You were always there beside us.  In times of frost,

 

 

 

 

as well as the times of sun shining through the rain.

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Yes, One year ago today we landed in this place that we now call home.  A place we really didn’t know, a place we had not yet had a chance to come to love. But, You knew. You knew, not only did this place need us, but we needed this place.  Thank you Lord.

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Thank you Lord for the privilege you have given us of calling Kosova and PHS our home.

You have guided us through the maze that has been this past year.

 

We ask now that you guide our white tennis shoed feet along your path through this next year and the years to come.

To You be the glory, forever and ever,

Amen

 

 

 

All My Loving Families

Late, late, late (too late to be writing) at night in Prishtina Kosova,

I have to be honest with you all.  I usually try to look at the good side of life, and for the most part my glass is usually half full, but this morning I woke up feeling blue.  Has that ever happened to you? You know, nothing really has happened, but you just feel sad.  Well, that is how it was this morning.  Things are going great around here. The year is wrapping up quite nicely and things have slowed down a bit from the last time I wrote, but I just was sad. Not sobbing, crying, terribly upset, just a bit blue.

I sat down in my living room to have a bit of a quiet time with the Lord and it was hard.  I was reading from the Psalms with all of its praises and it was not sinking in.  I thought, it is hard being in this place, being away from those I love, having no one I could tell how I feel. I didn’t want to burden Ted, he has enough going on right about now without a sad, grumbling wife.  And then I remembered, I have someone right here beside me, someone who has been with me every step of the way, someone who loves me so very much and wants the very best for me. I began praying.  “God, I am sad.  I miss my family, I miss my kids. I am sad because my son and his wife are moving away from California and I can’t be there to help them.  I am sad because sometimes I just don’t know why I am here and not there.” On I went, I poured out my heart to my loving Father, telling Him all the reasons I was sad.

But you know what, He knew all of that. He just wanted me to tell Him, to really talk to Him, to let Him show me He loves me.  God knew how I was going to wake up feeling, and He took care of things even before I knew they needed to be taken care of.  You see, while I was sleeping, He was busy taking care of my needs.

After I was done praying, I slipped on over to that fount of encouragement (really!) Facebook.  And do you know what what there at the very tip top of my wall, just waiting for me?  This.

Thank you Susie!!

Thank you Susie!!

7 pictures actually.  Just waiting to warm my heart.  Not only did it mean so much to me that I could see my granddaughter, but the pictures were taken by my newest daughter-in-love, Susie.  Which told me that my sons had met up.  I don’t know about you, but it warms my heart when I know my kids are getting together, just because they like each other and for no other reason than that.  You know, no holiday, no birthday, just because.  My heart was melting a bit and then I scrolled down to see this.

1908031_798259470184607_8216212933824804577_nYep, it is a picture of my sis, but not only that, Andi, the lovely lady who took the picture (and the lady who is grandmother to the cuties in the picture) wrote, “This picture was taken especially for you, Luanne Erskin.”  That picture had been taken way before I was pouring out my heart to God and guess what, Andi took the picture with me in mind, sweet and thoughtful as she is, she hasn’t done that for me before.  I think that is more than just a coincidence.

Then as I scrolled down a bit further, from out of no where, suggested by Facebook, there was this “Suggested Post”. I am not kidding, a post called “5 Ways to Stop Discouragement From Getting the Best of You.” Really, God is so good.  If you are the least bit discouraged, it is worth the read (just click on the link).   It tells of 4 men, Job, Elijah, Jeremiah, and Peter, who found reasons to be discouraged and then it went on to give 5 solid steps I could take when I was feeling a bit down.  God knew it was exactly what I needed to read today.

After I danced a bit around the house getting ready for the day, I walked out the door and looked across the way to see the sun shining down on my handsome husband who was sitting on top of the picnic table next to the school.  I walked over and plopped myself down right next to him and we talked. Not about anything in particular, just talked.  Then a 10th grader happened by and joined the conversation.  We laughed and joked and passed the time away waiting for school to begin. And  I realized that God was with me, helping me just be there, enjoying the sun and the good company, resting in His goodness, enjoying His blessings.

Then I gathered all my 14 little ducks and we headed on out to the middle school end of the year outing.  We were going bowling. I was a bit worried about how it would go. Something about middle schoolers and bowling balls frightened me a bit.

Yea, with these guys and about 30 others!

Yea, with these guys and about 30 others!

You know what, it was fantastic!  They kids were so good and had such a great time.  But, you know what the best part was, i realized I have a whole bunch of kids right here who need me.  Midway through his game, one boy had not even knocked down one pin, so I said, “Let me throw one for you.” And I did.  And I got a gutter ball. My boy laughed and relaxed, and actually did much better after that.  Then, while we’re eating lunch at the old food court, my kids somehow found helium balloons.  They came over to me a few at a time, saying, “Hey Mrs. Erskin, listen to this!” not knowing that I had already listened to 13 other kids just before them.  It was like, “Hey Mom watch this!”  If you have kids, I am sure you have heard that before.  I realized that this year I had become their “teacher-mom.”

While all that was happening, I was eating and talking with some of the greatest people around, other teachers from the school.  Teachers who have not only become my dear friends, but teachers who truly love each one of the kids at the school. They were as happy as I was to listen to each helium filled song that was sung.

Then this afternoon, after all the excitement had died down I sat down with a Magnum bar (chocolate, raspberry, with vanilla ice-cream – oh yum!; ice-cream can cure all kinds of ills :] ) and read a newsy e-mail from my sister. I so love hearing news from home, all the antics with her granddaughters, the birthday celebrations, the dinners with friends.  It makes my heart happy to hear of the fun.

A bit later, Ted and I sat on our porch, in the glow of dusk, listening to the sound  of cow bells lightly ringing from the field next to us, feeling like summer is upon us, while we dined on steak and pasta. Just a sweet, relaxing time with me and my sweetie, thinking life is good.

So, now as I sit here (way too late at night) thinking back upon my day, I am peaceful, and happy. God has walked me through this day and shown me so many of my blessings.  I still miss my family, but I have Ted and I have my Lord and  I am making a new family here of ragamuffin kids and loving teacher friends.  I thank you, God, for pointing this out to me so lovingly today. Lucky me, I have family literally the world around.

I love you all and thank you for all of your encouragement.  I so enjoy seeing your happy moments on Facebook, I pray for you when I see your needs.  I want you all to know you mean so much to Ted and I. And I pray that someday all my families will meet each other, here on earth or with our Father in heaven. All my loving families, I think you would like each other, a lot.

 

 

Ready, Set, It’s the End of the Year!

Sitting in my living room resting up before the next party, in Prishtina, Kosova

Ok, so all you teachers and room moms and otherwise involved school people out there know about the end of the school year.  It seems like every year it is a little bit crazy.  Well, we are about to end our first school year here (can you believe it?) and in Kosova it is no exception.

The only thing is that the end of the school year here is about a month long.  Yes, instead of a last week, we have a last month.  For some reason the Ministry of Education deems that seniors should end school about mid May (finals and all), have the graduation ceremony at the end of May, have finals for the rest of school the first week of June, and then have another week before school actually ends. Yea, crazy!

What do you do with kids between the time they take finals and the time they graduate or the school year ends?  Well, I’ll tell you, you keep everyone pretty busy.  So, here we go, I am telling you get ready to be amazed at what we have done in the past few weeks, I know I am (and we haven’t even officially ended the year yet!).

Remember our, nice, beautiful, restful trip to Albania? Well, the next day I took the 6th graders out to the country for a field trip.

Yea, these guys!

Yea, these guys!

I mean way out in the country.

DSC07823Way, way out.

DSC07827

Yea, those are sheep surrounding our van!

Yea, those are sheep surrounding our van!

Once we got there, the father of one of the kids showed us around his farm.

We pulled up little baby potatoes

We pulled up little baby potatoes

and stomped through fields

and stomped through fields

 

to pick

to pick

these little babies!

these little babies!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We saw blueberries

We saw blueberries

and baby apples

and baby apples

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We ate bajillions of fresh cherries right from the tree.

We ate bajillions of fresh cherries right from the tree.

 

Although some of us had other ideas about what cherries were for - gotta love 6th graders!

Although some of us had other ideas about what cherries were for, yep, that is a cherry in his ear – gotta love 6th graders!

 

 

 

We donned suits

We donned suits

to look at bees.

to look at bees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Had a barbecue

Had a barbecue

full of yummy stuff.

full of yummy stuff.

And then we played games like throw the boot

And then we played games like throw the boot,

swing from the ladder,

swing from the ladder,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and carry the egg up the ramp

and carry the egg up the ramp

and over the teeter-totter.

and over the teeter-totter.

Then we ended the day with birthday cake for one of my boys - what fun!

Then we ended the day with birthday cake for one of my boys – what fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And after all of that did they sleep on the way home? No. Sigh.

When I got back from that exciting day, it was time for the next segment in our end of the year saga; I made cinnamon rolls (sorry no picture, they didn’t last that long :]).  The next morning at 3 am these guys

The lovely Liz and her handsome husband Sam (history, music, math, art teacher extraordinaire)

The lovely Liz and her handsome husband Sam (history, music, math, art teacher extraordinaire)

were taking the senior class (all 12 of them) here

Alanya, Turkey

Alanya, Turkey (tough job but someone has to do it!)

And that is what you do in these parts with senior who have over a week between their last finals and graduation.

Oh, and yes, Ted and I did get up and serve those cinnamon rolls – along with some hot chocolate- to all of them at 3 am. That is what principals (and their wives) of small schools do. And, yes we love every minute of it.

After getting all of them off it was time to plan that graduation. So, we thought since we have a lovely round room that is to be our theater, why not have it in there.

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We decided we could paint, stretch the school budget enough to buy some curtains and we would have a great room for the graduation, but as soon as he saw what we were up to, our builder jumped right in with both feet and began finishing things around the place – bless his heart!

Sooooo ……. all those workers

painted,

painted,

 

 

evened out the stairs with marble,

evened out the stairs with marble,

 

 

turned this wall into

turned this wall into

 

this opening,

this opening,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

hung some curtains,

hung some curtains

painted some more,

painted some more,

laid some marble sills,

laid some marble sills,

and worked on the stairs some more.

and worked on the stairs some more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They even took the time to clean up outside.

They even took the time to clean up outside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Actually, this picture taken the afternoon before graduation tells it best.

DSC07981 (1)Yep, those men are laying a sill while standing UNDER the ladder of the man hanging the curtains.  And those men to the right, well they just finished putting in the latch in the window right next to all of this. Ted said it is a bit like Extreme School Makeover.  And, did I mention that all this drilling, pounding, grinding, noisemaking was going on just down the hall while we were teaching?  Quite a week!  But, it was all worth it because in the end this

DSC05839became this,

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and finally this.

DSC07998Pretty impressive, huh! Those workers and our staff worked right up until the last minute spiffing the place up – our thanks go out to all of them.

We were all set for a wonderful night.

The handmade scarfs and diplomas were set out,

The handmade scarfs and diplomas were set out,

these guys had the kitchen under control,

these guys had the kitchen under control,

and last minute tags were removed from new suits.

and tags were removed from new suits at the last minute.

Pre-graduation pictures were taken (isn't the background cool- so Hollywood!)

Pre-graduation pictures were taken (isn’t the background cool- so Hollywood!),

and appetizers were served.

and appetizers were served.

The graduation began with a song.

The graduation began with a song.

Our management team was introduced - what a great group of men!

Our management team was introduced – what a great group of men!

As chairman of the board, John had some good words for the graduates

As chairman of the board, John had some good words for the graduates

Then Ted had some personal words for each graduate as he placed their graduation scarf around their neck.

Then Ted had some personal words for each graduate as he placed their graduation scarf around their neck.

and gave them their diploma - very touching and personal.

and gave them their diploma – very touching and personal.

After the ceremony each graduate had to sign the register for it to be official.

After the ceremony each graduate had to sign the register for it to be official.

Finally, here they are - all 12 of them, what a great group!

Finally, here they are – all 12 of them, what a great group!

Then it was time to eat and celebrate.

Then it was time to eat and celebrate!

Yep. a great time was had by all,

Yep. a great time was had by all,

but by the time it was all done, we were a bit done in.

but by the time it was all over, we were a bit done in.

So what did we do the next day?  Had a shower for Jackie at my house of course!

Yes, how could we not celebrate this beautiful bride to be (and "Po" means "Yes" for all you non Albanian speakers out there)!

How could we not celebrate this beautiful bride to be (and “Po” means “Yes” for all you non Albanian speakers out there)!

We played that all American, toilet paper bride game. Yep, those are Kosovar ladies we dressed up!

We played that all American, toilet paper bride game. Yep, those are Kosovar ladies we dressed up!

Ate some yummy goodies (thanks to Liz, Donna, and Ruth for the great treats!)

Ate some yummy goodies (thanks to Liz, Donna, and Ruth for the great treats!)

And we even used this

And we used this (very strong tea in the top, boiling water in the bottom)

To have "The Bride" serve tea (which is a very Kosovar thing to do).

To have “The Bride” serve “Russian Tea” (which is a very Kosovar thing to do).

Victoria even showed up with her little secret, thanks to Ruth's recent trip to the US.

Victoria even showed up with her little secret, thanks to Ruth’s recent trip to the US.

A good time was had by all!

What a fun group of ladies!

But this is not the end! No, the next day Ted and I took a long walk in the country

DSC08117

Where we wondered, "Why did the turtle cross the road?"

Where we wondered, “Why did the turtle cross the road?”

Yes, turtle.

Yes, turtle, way out in the middle of nowhere – no I don’t know why.

And we just enjoyed the beauty of it all.

And we just enjoyed the beauty of it all.

When we got back,

the school looked like this.

the school looked like this.

Yep, there was a wedding going on. Luckily, we didn't have to do anything for this. Just enjoy the fun of our newly finished space being put to such good use.

Yep, there was a wedding going on. Luckily, we didn’t have to do anything for this. Just enjoy the fun of our newly finished space being put to such good use.

And that folks is how we have almost ended the school year.  I say almost because we still have:

A celebration for the three new dads on our staff (two in May and one coming in June) – tomorrow (Tues.)
Bowling with the Middle School – Thursday
School wide beautification and educational resource projects involving all students – next Mon. – Wed.
School wide trip to the California Resort water park – Thursday the 12th (last day for kids)
Afternoon and dinner in the country for all the staff – Friday the 13th (last day for staff)

I have a note on my calendar for Saturday the 14th, it says, “Collapse!” and that is just what I plan to do.  At least for a day and then it is time to begin getting ready for next year.

It is hard to believe a year has come and almost gone.  Just a year ago we were leaving China, not really sure what the Lord had planned for us.  What a great plan He had in mind.  Why do I find myself surprised by His loving plans? I should know by now just to rest in Him and all will fall into place.

I can hardly wait to see what He has in store for the year to come.

 

 

 

Deja Vu all over again

DSC07787

Sitting in the kitchen, eating sweet, juicy melon, on a sunny Sunday in Prishtina Kosova

And thus begins a week of hurrying and scurrying, it is less than a week until graduation; all is abuzz around these parts.  While I am making tablecloths for the dinner ahead, the construction crew is busy finishing the new soccer stadium, and the drapery people are getting ready to install curtains in our new theater. Ted is managing the final paperwork and poor Sefedin (our business manager) is trying to remember that all this money is well spent.

It hardly seem that just a week ago Ted and I headed off with some friends for a restful weekend in Albania.

Yeah, these guys.  The best travel partners around.

Yeah, these guys. The best travel partners around.

First stop, breakfast at the gas station.  Yep, that is how they do things in these parts.  Well, when I looked at the egg dishes, I noticed they had tortilla and I recognized the word for potatoes, so I ordered (and talked Ted into ordering) what I thought would be a yummy, thick, eggy, potato-filled Spanish tortilla (like a frittata) and this is what we got.

DSC07688

A wrap of cucumbers, tomatoes, cheese and hot sauce with french fries. Not an egg in sight.  It was yummy though.  I find that is what happens around here, always expect the unexpected.  Kind of reminds me of another place I know.

DSC02059

Only this meal involved a trip to the village leader’s home and goose eggs.

Anyway, after picking up some snacks for the road,

These goodies were recommend by Jackie as things best not kept in her house if she wants to fit into that wedding dress of hers.

These goodies were recommend by Jackie as things best not kept in her house if she wants to fit into that wedding dress of hers.

and, yeah, they were yummy.  Sweet shortbread  on the outside and gooey chocolate in the middle!

and, yeah, they were yummy. Sweet shortbread on the outside and gooey chocolate in the middle!

we headed off through the countryside, past villages nestled into the mountainside.

 

Albania, 2014

Albania, 2014

Somehow, it all looked familiar.

China 2011

China 2011

Finally we arrived in Tirana.  Which is a lovely city,

DSC07698

even in the pouring rain.

DSC07703

There were beautiful Mosques,

DSC07697

statues of heroes,

Skenderbeau - more about him later, I promise.

Skenderbeu – more about him later, I promise.

I have know idea who this guy is, but he just looks so Albanian.

I have no idea who this guy is, but he just looks so Albanian.

and even a birthday candle clock tower.

Yes, the candles lit up red at night.

Yes, the candles lit up red at night.

But somehow, we kept thinking we were somewhere else.

DSC07700

Tirana, Alania

Kunming, China

Kunming, China

Well, somethings were not exactly as we remembered.

Well, somethings were not exactly as we remembered. I think the fine people of Shanghai  might be appalled at this :]

After our soggy wet, walk, we decided that it was time to go back to the hotel and do what we really needed to do – take a nap! I will say the accommodations were more updated, but just as cozy as some places we remember.

View from our bed in Tirana

View from our bed in Tirana

View from our bed in China

View from our bed in China

Window view Tirana

Window view Tirana

Window view, China

Window view, China

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After our wonderful, well needed nap, we met up with these guys for dinner.

Skender and Jackie with Jackie's friends from college, Andre (from Brazil) and Maria  (from France) who were working for a couple of weeks in Tirana, but live in Rome.  Did you get all that?

Skender and Jackie with Jackie’s friends from college, Andre (from Brazil) and Maria (from France) who were working for a couple of weeks in Tirana, but live in Rome. Did you get all that?

What was on the menu?

Look at the offering at the top.  Poor Pooh!

Look at the offering at the top. Sorry Pooh!

I decided on the non-piglet pizza.  Pretty darn good!

DSC07708

What a lovely time we had, talking and eating, and talking some more.  It was so fun to meet up with new friends.  We have an invitation to meet up with them in Rome sometime, sounds good to me!

The next morning we woke up bright and early to the quiet murmurings of the morning market.

No, not this one.  Although, once again we were reminded of our time in Lijiang.

No, not this one. Although, once again we were reminded of our time in Lijiang.

This market

This market

We did just have to get up and wander through.

and melons

with all its fresh produce,

and eggs.

and eggs,

and men just sitting around.

and men just sitting around.

Then we rounded the corner and saw this.

DSC07722

What in the world were all those men congregated there for?  Then we got a closer look and began chuckling.

DSC07723

They were there to buy birds.  That may not seem so funny to you, but you see, in China there is a flower and bird market in every town.  Why? because old, retired men love birds.

These men are in a park in Kunming, China.  Look in the trees, you will see the bird cages.  Get between the birds and the men and you are in big trouble!

These men are in a park in Kunming, China. Look in the trees, you will see the bamboo bird cages. Get between the birds and the men and you are in big trouble!

Birdie at the Kunming bird and flower market.

Birdie at the Kunming bird and flower market.

Here we were in Albania and what were the old men lining up to buy? Birds! What were they selling right across the street? Flowers of course. Well, it was funny to us.

DSC07719

We really were beginning to think that we had made a wrong turn somewhere heading into Albania. Even the traffic reminded us of our former home.

Although, in China, I am sure that truck of furniture would have been loaded much higher!

Although, in China, I am sure that truck of furniture would have been loaded much higher!

After buying some flowers (no bird – Ted isn’t old enough yet!) and dodging all that traffic, we moseyed on out to Skenderbeu town, the village of Krujë. See I told you I would get to him later. In case you were wondering, beu means lord and Skender is the Albanian form of Alexander.  So, who we are talking about here is Lord Alexander that hero of Albania.  During the 1400’s, good old Lord Alexander held off the Turks for, well, depending upon whom you ask, either 4 years or 500 years. As in China, history around these parts is a bit fluid at times.

The village is set on a hill overlooking the valley below and with a pretty good view of the Adriatic Sea.  A great place to ward off Turks, no matter how long it was.  As we got to the village as walked a bit, past the wall topped with red tile,

OK, I know I am saying it a lot, but, China anyone?

OK, I know I am saying it a lot, but, China anyone?

and the doggie print street.

DSC07743

 

At least the Albanian doggie print street didn't have a telephone pole in the middle of it.  Oh how I miss village life :]

At least the Albanian doggie print street didn’t have a telephone pole in the middle of it. Oh how I miss village life :]

And of course, since there are doggie print streets, there are

DSC07745

dogs lying around everywhere.  Almost made me miss these guys!

Almost.

Almost.

Then I saw something that made me stop in my tracks.

DSC07747

If Skender and Jackie hadn’t been there, I would have thought I had been transported back to Lijang!  Cobblestone streets, handmade goods and “antiques” for sale.

Not exactly the same antiques as China, but the same idea - let's gather some old things, make them look older and sell them to people!

We resisted the temptation to buy and headed on up the hill to get some lunch. We stopped at this place, well, because who can’t resist a good sign with a skull?

I won't show you the China picture with the whole got skeleton hanging out side the restaurant, I will leave that one to your imagination.

I won’t show you the China picture with the whole goat skeleton hanging out side the restaurant, I will leave that one to your imagination.

Really we went for its charm,

DSC07750

good food, and

Oh yeah!

Oh yeah!

just maybe because we had to walk through this arched doorway to get into the patio.

DSC07755

Finally, after lunch we got to the top of the hill and reached what we had come for.  The Skenderbeu museum.

The museum sits on the foundation of the old fort and is made to be a replica of the fort.

The museum sits on the foundation of the old fort and is made to be a replica of the fort.

We got lucky because it was National Museum Day, so all museums were open (as opposed to closed on Sunday) and free.  Lucky us!  First up two Skenders.

The Skender in the black coat is our hero!  he does so much for us and for the school.

The Skender in the black coat is our hero! He does so much for us and for the school.

Then it was the usual museum stuff.  You know, murals

DSC07765

and helmets,

DSC07768

and weapons, oh my!

DSC07790

Actually it was quite interesting. If you are ever in the area, you should stop by, it is worth a visit.  What I liked the most were the grounds though.

up the steps, around the fort,

up the steps, around the fort,

to the beautiful grounds and

to the beautiful grounds and

the awe inspiring view. Yes, that little strip of blue under the clouds is the Adriatic Sea.

the awe inspiring view. Yes, that little strip of blue under the clouds is the Adriatic Sea.

Oh, and of course we had to get a picture of me sitting on the edge of the local well,

DSC07801

just because it made me think of these guys and what it must have taken to build that big of a well back in the 1400’s.

DSC01343

Kaiwen Village a couple of years ago

PHS well being built this year.

PHS well being built this year.

I guess I am just enamored with wells these days.

After all of that it was time to head on back, through the mountain passes to home.DSC07817

What a lovely weekend it was.  Wonderful sights, great friends, lots of rest and memories of things near to our heart.  Thanks Skender and Jackie for inviting us along; we loved every minute of our time together.

And now, the school year needs to wrap up, and we are about to have a crazy, busy week, so back to work! Good thing we got a rest while we could.

 

 

 

 

 

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