What Did I Miss?

NOTE: This is a repost from our Lisses to Lebanon blog because many of you are interested in all of our writing and not sure how to get access. Here is the answer.

What Did I Miss?

Some of you have been receiving our newsletters in your emails, seeing them on facebook, or reading our blogs for a long time. Others are just finding us. All of you are noticing there has been an increased amount of writing being put out. Some of you have been commenting that you feel like you might miss something now.

I Have the Solution

Do not worry! If you have missed a post in the past or noticed that recently we aren’t posting everything to facebook, CLICK HERE! You will have the option of signing up for our Daily, Weekly, or Monthly email update. It takes everything we write for the blog and sends it to you in one beautiful email so you don’t miss a post ever again. CLICK HERE to subscribe.

If you want to know the dirt, the skinny, the low down even beyond what we write on the blog, CLICK HERE! You will be added to our small group of Prayer Warriors. While many people pray for us all the time, this is a group of people committed to covering us in prayer whenever they receive one of our prayer emails. You will receive alerts that cannot be made public on facebook, and you will be asked to pray during our Quarterly Prayer Challenges. Our Summer Prayer Challenge starts in just a few days, so CLICK HERE so you don’t miss out.

Have you been missing out on family stories, updates on our kids, or just wanting to see what Annie is going to do with her blog? CLICK HERE to subscribe to Annie’s blog. As I work on this blog I am seeking God’s direction, and it is sure to be undergoing changes slowly but surely over the next few years. It is the place we post family topics, so CLICK HERE to never miss a story about the kids, parenting, and being a homemaker in Lebanon.

Bonus Points: Share with Others so They Don’t Miss a Thing

At the end of March into the beginning of April we had about a week when staff from all over the world came to Lebanon for our Eastern Staff Summit. One of the biggest revelations for everyone was repeated over and over, “It’s all happening here. Horizons Beirut is the hub.” We have become the center, the catalyst, and the biggest of all the Horizons projects worldwide. The timing, people, and openness has made this a special place to be during this time in history. The only way that our staff outside of Lebanon could fully understand was by seeing it firsthand.

Please pray about making a personal visit to Lebanon.

For most people, travelling to Lebanon is out of the question. But because Louis is in charge of all visitors, coming to Lebanon is far easier than most people are aware of. This is by far the best way to be able to communicate to others what we are doing.

Share our newsletter at your church and small group.

Print our newsletter and put in the narthex or hand it out to your small group. When you receive the letters in your email you can click the button at the top that says View in Browser. This will put the newsletter into a print friendly window and you can print that out to share with people.

These are just a few examples of ways to keep from missing out on our ministry stories. Please pray about committing to share with others around you so we can encourage the worldwide church with the successes happening here in Lebanon.

If God is leading you to become a financial partner, CLICK HERE to donate through Horizons. Write Louis Liss in the designation / memo.

Annie will be in the States in just a few days! Please sign up to meet with her to encourage each other in all that the Lord is doing! CLICK HERE to make an appointment, or reply to the email when you subscribe to our newsletter.

Davy’s First Year of School!

This morning I sent David off to school for his last day of KG1. Last night as I was thinking about this school year I had a bit of a slideshow playing in my head.

The Tears

I remember the first two weeks putting him on the bus, pasting on a big smile, blowing him kisses and waving goodbye. Then, as soon as the bus was out of sight bursting into tears and crying all morning. Even into April I was still tearing up every now and then when I put him on that bus.

The Culture Shock

There were many small culture shock moments for both David and I. Davy learned playground Arabic throughout the year, but at the beginning of the year he couldn’t communicate with most of his class mates. Even trying Arabic, many of the kids just weren’t speaking as well as he could because they are learning 2 or 3 languages at a time. He thought kids didn’t want to play with him, and he struggled with the rough way they would act.

For me it was the unspoken rules that were expected. Even Lebanese parents were frustrated by things like that, but they felt used to it. For me it felt like I was in big trouble. For instance, I learned that muffins do not count as a breakfast sandwich. It has to be the sandwich they expected, one I had never made before.

By the end of the year I handled these moments much better, but still would have some amount of shock. For Davy’s school musical they asked us to buy “sandals”. What we didn’t know was that in Arabic there was a much more specific word, so the first ones we brought were considered “slippers”. The second time our language teacher approved them, and now he has great summer shoes, so it worked out well. Also, we were extremely proud of ourselves because we were able to get both pairs of new shoes for $10 (US Dollars).

The Growth

At the beginning of the year Davy could barely jump. Now he can jump, stand on one foot, and do a whole slew of exercises.

He was not able to color in the lines or draw anything on his own. His fine motor skills are awesome now, he stamps, cuts, draws, colors, paints, and doesn’t mind getting messy any more.

David hated singing even though our homeschool curriculum has a song of the week or two every week. David would just allow me to sing it, and if I tried to make him sing it with me he would shut down. Throughout the year his love of singing sprouted and blossomed, and he performed for us in three different presentations with mostly singing and dancing in front of large audiences.

Our shy little boy from the beginning of the year has found his comfort level and spent half an hour after church on Sunday greeting a team from Canada and showing off and telling them stories about his life and plans for summer.

There has been so much growth this year I can’t even begin to share it all, but these are the big pictures that came to my mind as I pondered the year. Thank you for sharing them with me.

If you are interested in an actual Power Point including videos of David’s various performances during the year,

Fill out the form below and I will send you the actual slideshow I created for myself. Busy Mom Scrapbook = Power Point to the rescue!

The Most Important Thing I’ve Learned About Blogging

My Most Important Blogging Lesson

We started our Lisses to Lebanon blog while we were fundraising before moving to Lebanon back in 2013. In the past 4 years of blogging I have learned so many things. The most important thing I have learned is not new or creative.

Know Your Audience

Know your audience. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that from English teachers in writing projects in my 30 years of life. I heard it so much I thought I knew what it meant.

Only recently have I realized that I don’t truly follow that wisdom. I don’t have a clearly defined audience to write for, so I often sit down to write and feel stuck.

What Will My Readers Say?

This thought is a plague that eats away at my writing, motivation, and will power. And when my husband says, “Who is “They”?” I just get annoyed. Of course he doesn’t understand, he isn’t trying to whip out 20,000 words a day about everything important in life!

This is a gross exaggeration, and I love my husband very much, but this is what lies do to us.

The lie is that I have thousands of people reading my every blog post and criticizing me as a person.

The truth is I have a smattering of friends and family and a few people brave enough to join the email list who don’t know me personally. These people read the posts that relate to them, just like I do with the blogs I follow.

And if someone doesn’t like a post they rarely criticize. Usually they just stop opening the emails.

The second lie is that I am trying to write so much!

The truth is that I am enjoying a life of being a mother. I am spending great lengths of time with my family, and I believe this is the correct and right thing for me to do.

Now That I’ve Stopped Taking Crazy Pills*

Overthinking what people will think of me keeps me from writing. When I sit down and pray about what God is telling me to write I usually end up with month long series posts or a challenge and my writing goes well.

I was reading through old posts and ran across one that blew me away. What’s Stopping You? This post was written with a joy and exuberance that I have inside of me but rarely share on the blog. I don’t think even my family knows that feeling is inside me most of the time. Don’t I want to share it with the world?

I may not become the next huge blogger. I may not do much more than continue to share my thoughts with you all and gather a small group of people who love me. For me, that would be enough.

*I don’t take pills other than my daily vitamins: C, Fish Oil, B, and Calcium/Magnesium/Zinc/D3.

Community

I am in the process of finding who God wants me to be, to belong in my own skin. And in this quest I am discovering a gaping hole in my life for community. This blog provides small doses of that. Anything I do to grow my audience will be with the goal of growing my community.

I hope you have good things to say in the future, and I hope the changes I make in my blogging life will bless and encourage you. I hope my joy can start to pour out onto the pages, and I hope you can share your own lives with me.

Do This One Thing To Get Rid of Digital Distraction in Your Life

In The Beginning

This blog was started because a nurse thought that I wouldn’t be able to read as a mom. Since that day my son was born until now I have been constantly reminded that we can accomplish something when we really put our minds and energies towards that one thing.

In an ongoing series about the Spiritual Life of Christians I shared about our Ideal, Paragon, and Focus. As we focus on goal setting we can often choose things that sound good, but aren’t things we ever intend on doing.

However, I meant to read because it gives me life. I enjoy it, find purpose in it, and it is a huge benefit to me.

How Do You Read So Much?

It is funny to me when people ask me this because reading is such a part of my life, and I love to do it. To me the answer is, “Of course I can find the time to read!”

I have a dear friend who reads far more than I do. As I look at the two of us, natural readers, reading a part of our DNA, I know that it is because we make it a priority. If you hear me say that and think you want reading to be a priority, but you still don’t check a book out from the library, it is possible you are merely trying to compare yourself to me or other readers you admire.

If I compared myself to my friend it would seem like I am not a reader after all. However, I am not reading for her, or for you, but for myself and to better my relationship with God.

Why Do You Read So Much?

Reading quiets down my soul and mind and gives me a place to vent internally, in notes, and in prayer; a way to escape; a place to say I don’t know and seek help; and a place to process all that is going on in life. For many people that isn’t their experience reading. I don’t want to tell you what experience you should have reading, or even to tell you to read.

We live in a time of social media and technology running huge chunks of our lives.

I was listening to a webinar today about multitasking and was so proud of myself for not being the person he was describing.

As I said before, this is natural for me, so my experience is not going to be your experience. Most likely if you are following my blog you have some level of technology access, so on some level there is some point at which you are distracted.

I am easily waylaid from my projects by multitasking. I used to think I was so amazing because I could “multitask”. Now I know that what I perceived as multitasking was really and truly getting high on adrenaline.

I Don’t Multitask

That is my secret ingredient for successful days. It is my secret ingredient for being able to read or cross stitch or homeschool or clean.

Now truly, there are distractions, there are alarms, and I am a mom.

But when I decide that we are going to homeschool, I don’t try to pick up a book while David works. I prep for the next activity, or I turn on their homeschool songs so we can sing and work. I stay on topic.

If I decide to read, I choose to do it when everyone else is also doing a quiet activity. I have trained my kids to have quiet times in their rooms, and I read during those times. I read during naps. I read while waiting for the bus. I read while Louis works on the computer after the kids go to bed.

If I decide to clean, I split my task in two. 1. Chores the kids can help with. These are chores that will require my oversight, so I can’t go dig in on a task I need to focus on while hoping they work. During cleaning times they have to stop playing and tidy up, wipe up spots, etc. 2. I put the kids in their rooms to play while I work on dishes or deep cleaning.

For me it is easy to focus with single mindedness, so this strategy works well to get me accomplishing what I want and need to do throughout the day.

Am I Happy Yet?

The Quest

This year my word of the year is Belong. I am seeking to belong in my own skin, to love myself, and to be happy. Now that we are in June I want to take a minute to look back on the first half of the year and see how my quest is going.

The Heroine

There is a version of myself that I truly believe I am turning into. I am deepening so many good character traits, and really working to minimize and eliminate the bad. I am so much more patient now that it is weird to think of how I used to fidget and pace and start to raise my voice if something was taking too long. Now I can sit, silently, waiting without feeling any stress. I am able to sit next to women here in Lebanon without needing to say something. This causes many women to build relationship with me because that is normal for them as well.

I have reduced the voice raising so much that when I raise my voice now it surprises me, too. Once a month this gets a little wacky (sorry if that’s TMI), but even that week is nothing compared to how bad it used to be.

I really am learning to love myself. I have a clean house most of the time, and I am able to keep up with chores and homeschool and have begun really showing consistency in the blog, exercise, and many other areas of life.

So much of who I want to be is starting to happen. As a family we are instituting strategies that set us up for success so that we can encourage each other’s strengths.

Day by day, step by step, I am becoming the woman God and I want me to be.

The Villain

Sometimes, in a movie or book, it can be hard to recognize the villain. Often the villainess is good friends with the heroine until in a sudden twist she becomes the bad guy.

I can be the villain in my own life. Just when I am starting to get to know myself, be calm and happy for an extended period of time, or do something to take care of myself, the part of me that does not believe this is possible starts to react. I start distrusting people around me, finding things to nitpick.

Back in February I posted a short letter to my Shadow Self, that villainous piece of me that tries to remove Joy and Love from my life. The battle with her goes on, but it is greatly diminished in the past few months. I have control over that aspect of myself far more than I did before.

I am afraid.

I become my own enemy out of fear. Fear of change, fear of loss, fear of failure.

Recognizing that I am afraid, I can give it back to God, seek His help, pray with my family, and get the train back on the rails.

I really love and thrive on consistency and routine. But so little of my life has been focused on those two things that it is a big change to move from chaos to routine. I have to tell myself every day, “This change is good. This change means that eventually there will not be chaos and mania. I want to be made well.”

I am excited.

I am living in paradox. Feelings that don’t go together are simultaneously in my brain. In the midst of those feelings of fear I am looking forward to the future with confidence and faith stronger than ever. I know without an inkling of doubt that I am headed where God wants me, and that right now at my computer typing this, I am in God’s hand.

God told me I can be happy. So that is true. Anything my Shadow Self, Satan, or any other enemy says that is different from that is not true.

As we plan to go to America, fundraise, people raise, train people in prayer and moral support, and spend time with family, I am thrilled to be on an adventure. I am sure that God has great things planned and can’t wait to see what they are. I know that it will all be different because I have changed inside my own skin so much.

I hope to continue to learn to express myself and share what God is putting on my heart in a way that encourages and blesses others. I have learned how to take care of myself so that I can be the best person, mom, wife, and friend I can be. In another 6 months I know I will look back and see what a special year this is.

I love you, Annie.

If you live in the Arizona or Utah areas, I would love to meet with you while I am in America! CLICK HERE to make an appointment or shoot me a comment or reply.

My Weight Gain & Loss Journey

Let Me Summarize My Weight Loss Journey So Far

I was reading encouraging stories from Bikini Body Mommy participants, and I realized I haven’t shared with you the full story of when my body was a wreck and how I turned it all around.

The Weight Gain

I started gaining weight as soon as high school ended. All throughout elementary, junior high, and high school I had PE to keep me active. In college I just sat around. When I became a teacher I stress ate and was still rather stationary. Then, I got pregnant.

As everyone knows, having babies has huge effects on a woman’s body. Not only is there a person growing inside, but organs literally are shoved out of the way to make room for that little person.

With my first pregnancy, I lost weight. Hard to believe, but after I had Davy I was around 15 pounds below where I started. This was exciting after the fact, but during my pregnancy it was stressful. I was overweight enough to begin with that it didn’t endanger David, but every time I went to the doctor she would tell me to eat more. But I just couldn’t keep anything down.

I continued to lose weight when we arrived in Lebanon due to lack of a vehicle which forced us to walk everywhere, no elevator in our apartment, and healthier food being far easier to get. However, it isn’t all about nutrition.

With Kyrie, I ate all the time. I gained weight, but within the levels my doctor said were okay. After she was born, nursing made me so hungry, and there was the added stress of her needing surgery and my having mommy blues. So, I gained a lot of weight.

The Breaking Point

My breaking point happened sometime during my pregnancy with Kyrie when I stepped on the scale and weighed 300 pounds! Yes, indeed. The same as a baby hippo. “It’s not going to bring me down,” I thought. “My baby is healthier with me eating and I just need to maintain.” I figured that after she was born I would weight less than 300 and had nothing to worry about.

When we found out Kyrie needed surgery because of an imperforate hymen, my world stopped. I was in a tailspin of out of control hormones on top of the aggravation of untrustworthy insurance companies. I didn’t pay attention to my weight, and it was hard to just get through the day. After nine months we returned to Lebanon and I knew I had to just start moving.

Just Start

I wanted an exercise routine I could do from home without any fancy equipment. I used jugs of water as dumbbells and began Bikini Body Mommy 1.0. I was hooked on Bikini Body Mommy immediately. Briana Christine is a mom, so she understands what parts of the body are in recovery after birth and she is able to provide insight on ways to adapt around those sensitive areas. Most of the challenges are filmed during her own baby weight loss periods after having her children.

The key to this program is that it is a part of my life constantly. There is so much content on Briana’s website that there is no reason for me to ever go stagnant again. I love working out because I love the way it makes the rest of my day feel.

I love cooking every night because I love knowing that all four of us are eating something that is nutritious and spending time together to eat it.

I also enjoy the alone time provided by both activities, which has been a major motivator for me. The second and even better motivator to keep working out is that I do not get coffee unless I do my workout first.

Have you had a low point with your health and wellness that you overcame? Let me know about your own journeys. We are here on this earth journeying together.

Behind the Scenes of My Homeschooling

What School Does Your Son Go To?

I have been answering this questions since David was 1 year old here in Lebanon. He is tall for his age even in America, so he seems like he is far older than he is in actuality. So, school has been on our minds from the beginning of our missionary work. I always thought I would have years with David before I even had to think about it.

It was far too complicated with our limited Arabic to explain that he was too young for school, so we just started saying he does school in the home. Because I also wanted to do activities with him that my own mother did with me, I searched for a homeschool curriculum for him. I found abcjesuslovesme.com and love the program. I love sharing websites I love on here because they are free. So often we just don’t know what we don’t know. We think it is going to be too hard to teach our kids. The reality is that we are the best teachers for our own kids. We know them and can provide the kind of attention and understanding that teachers cannot provide. We know when they need to be challenged, and we know where they are struggling.

I am Not a Great Teacher

I must admit to you teaching is not my skill set either. I know those of you who know me will try to argue this point. But I do not enjoy teaching, nor do I have the patience for it. This is why the curriculum on abcjesuslovesme is so amazing! It helps me to know exactly what to do. I cannot come up with these activities by myself. In fact, teachable moments are prone to fly right by me if it weren’t for having a focus for the week.

I believe teaching is something that can be learned, and over time I am improving, but there are so many people far better suited for teaching than I am. So, when we had gone through a year of the homeschool curriculum and prayer we decided to enroll David for school when he was 3.

You Enrolled David in School?

When we enrolled Davy I was praying about what to do this year, and we decided that God was supporting us continuing homeschool as well. This has many benefits. The biggest being that in our crazy chaotic transitional lives, this homeschool curriculum is a constant. We have a book of the week, several songs of the week, verses of the week, themes of the week, and that never changes. This year we began the brand new 1 year old curriculum for Kyrie, and she loves it. She loves being involved, and her favorite part is when we pray for her with her verse of the week. This week she even learned her verse “God loves a cheerful giver.”

No matter what else is happening this anchors my super emotional children, and focuses them on Christ. This is the goal of our parenting, so we will continue with the homeschooling.

Traveling Homeschool

Another benefit is that if God calls us to another country, or if for some reason there is an interruption in the school year, I still will be homeschooling, so my kids will not be dealing with gaps. Even on our visa trips I am able to continue the homeschool curriculum by adapting activities to travel based. It is easy to adapt because we have been doing it for three years now.

A huge benefit of continuing the homeschooling curriculum is that it keeps me focused and helps me take every visa trip with a mind toward learning opportunities for my children. They are getting to see parts of the world that other people only dream of. They are getting to walk where Paul and Peter and Barnabbas walked. They are touching history, and we want them to know the history they are a part of.

Please Join Me!

If you are a grandparent or parent or babysitter, Sunday School teacher, abcjesuslovesme has great resources for Biblical activities. Of course, if you are not using it for your own personal child you will need to purchase a license, but it is reasonably priced. I don’t get any money from recommending this, I just want you to be able to raise your kids in the way of Jesus Christ!

Finally, this coming Fall I am planning on stepping into an active role of working with our local church, so if you are interested in helping me to prepare to teach this curriculum to the children at our church and in our refugee outreach programs, please CLICK HERE to sign up to meet with me this summer. We can meet together to discuss ways to help me stock up on materials for the activities, and funding for the licenses I will need to purchase, and most importantly to pray over the ministry God is calling me into.