Merry Christmas

This is Day 11 of my FREE 21 Day Writing Challenge. It isn’t too late to Join the Challenge!

Here are some pictures from our time with family and friends so far this holiday season:

This post is one of a series meant to kickstart a writing habit. I created exclusive prompts which are emailed to those of us signed up for my FREE 21 Day Writing Challenge. I am posting my responses each day, and I invite you to join me in this writing journey by CLICKING HERE! The only way to receive the prompts is to sign up for the Challenge. The emails will include the prompt for the day as well as directions to kickstart your writing habit for any combination of the following:

  • Personal Journal
  • Prayer Journal
  • Blog
  • Christmas/New Year Letter or Correspondence

The One Essential To My Holiday Meal Plans

This is Day 9 of my FREE 21 Day Writing Challenge. It isn’t too late to Join the Challenge! All caught up! What I am learning through this challenge is how to set myself up for success. It isn’t always the time or the planning, it is sometimes just the environment. I can set aside the right amount of time and have my coffee and even be inspired to write. But my daughter had a tooth come in last night and fall over screaming in front of me while I began typing. No work could get done well! I am planning on creating a study space for myself by walking down the hill to the seminary so I can study and write every day when we get back to Lebanon, and right now I am taking the time to notice which distractions affect me. Noise, obviously, but also too many plans left up in the air. If I sit down to write and keep thinking about what I need to do, or what I wish Louis was doing, or how the kids are still awake and it is nap time, I can’t write anything. Finally, I am learning to take a deep breath, and just write. To put aside whatever worry, knowing that I am only going to take about half an hour to put out a post. This lesson is teaching me a discipline that other people have mastered, but now I am learning not to worry.

Holiday Dinner

What emotion rises in you when you hear that phrase? I have never been in charge of a holiday meal until I got married and volunteered, but my sister has often been in charge of cooking the holiday meals. This has had its highs and lows as any one of you who has been around holiday meal planning, shopping, cooking, and serving can relate to. When I got married, I wanted to help out with the meal more, so I have taken on a few meals here and there at the holidays. Since I am now enjoying cooking, and have gotten much better at arranging foods to all come out at the same time hot and ready to eat with a table already set, Davy and I have been planning to have our holiday meal tonight, on the 23rd. Davy is giving Louis’ parents two guest passes to take him to the Desert Museum, and we are serving up a fancy dinner.


How am I sitting here writing three blog posts in a row at noon if I need to be cooking? Because I opted out of the cooking portion. I looked at the traditional meal, and decided that rather than learn to make brisket, I would order from my favorite place, Famous Dave’s. So I get to sit and write blog posts, the kids get to play with their grandparents, and all the stress of cooking gets to happen in a different building. I am very excited, and would love to have pictures of the wonderful serving plates and bowls I bought to make the meal look fancy, but I get to finish this post hours before I even order the meal.


As I shared earlier, I like to focus on the intentionality of traditions, and we want to focus on letting Davy give the gifts he has been so excited to have for his grandparents. We are going to focus on being together and talking and relaxing. I can have fun decorating with gold and blue and drinking coffee throughout. It is going to be a good, calm, family focused holiday for us this year beginning early!

This post is one of a series meant to kickstart a writing habit. I created exclusive prompts which are emailed to those of us signed up for my FREE 21 Day Writing Challenge. I am posting my responses each day, and I invite you to join me in this writing journey by CLICKING HERE! The only way to receive the prompts is to sign up for the Challenge. The emails will include the prompt for the day as well as directions to kickstart your writing habit for any combination of the following:

  • Personal Journal
  • Prayer Journal
  • Blog
  • Christmas/New Year Letter or Correspondence

30 Pieces of Our Lives We Need to Tell You About!

Davy at the Reid Park Zoo yesterday.

This is the Core of my FREE 21 Day Writing Challenge. The only way to receive the prompts and process in your email is to SIGN UP!!! It isn’t too late to Join the Challenge!

This year has had so much growth and change and so many big events, that I cannot even begin to share them all. So, here is a short list of such things I hope to write more about in the near future.

In 2016:

  1. Kyrie learned to walk
  2. Kyrie learns French, Arabic, and English simultaneously
  3. Davy started school (CLICK HERE for a story about the day we missed the bus) at CTI (Christian Teaching Institute)
  4. Louis had 8 interns
  5. We hosted LOTS of teams
  6. We joined the HR and Member Care team
  7. Louis is now in charge of all new staff who come from outside of Lebanon (CLICK HERE for a great book which has motivated us to seek even greater success)
  8. Annie was accepted to Rutgers University for the Master of Information program (Library Science) (See her post on Bullet Journaling to get a taste of her archives passion)
  9. I tutored one of Louis’ high schoolers, Ivan
  10. I met 90% of the goals I had for this past year
  11. We met most of our long term goals for our position in Horizons
  12. I lost 71 pounds
  13. Being just a stay at home mom
  14. Discipline was my word of the year
  15. Learning Arabic was slow, but steady for Annie
  16. Louis is ready to start MSA (formal Arabic)
  17. We went to Paphos, Cyprus and saw one of the places Paul was given the 39 lashes
  18. We went to Larnaca, Cyprus and had anamnesis about Davy’s Lazarus experience
  19. We went to England and strengthened our historical memory about WWII
  20. I was able to heal dramatically from childhood trauma
  21. We have clear direction for our life
  22. Zoey, Kyrie’s best friend, was born in March (just like Kyrie)
  23. We joined a small group at our church
  24. Davy is leaping forward in fine motor skills since beginning school
  25. Davy is doing so well socially, and learning so much
  26. I can cook now!
  27. Davy was a storm trooper for Halloween this December (CLICK HERE to read about our holiday tradition planning this year)
  28. We came back to America for Christmas
  29. Kyrie Health Update 
  30. I created this FREE Challenge to motivate myself to get in the habit of writing for this blog everyday

This post is one of a series meant to kickstart a writing habit. I created exclusive prompts which are emailed to those of us signed up for my FREE 21 Day Writing Challenge. I am posting my responses each day, and I invite you to join me in this writing journey by CLICKING HERE! The only way to receive the prompts is to sign up for the Challenge. The emails will include the prompt for the day as well as directions to kickstart your writing habit for any combination of the following:

  • Personal Journal
  • Prayer Journal
  • Blog
  • Christmas/New Year Letter or Correspondence

Flexible Planning a.k.a. Planning on Water

I have always felt that the phrase Firmly Flexible fit with my style. I like to have a structure, a schedule, fully planned out, rigid times set in stone that I know very well. With this plan in place I know where there is wiggle room, and I know which things can be moved to a different day, hour, and I can be spontaneous. Within that stone structure.

However, life doesn’t really work that way in this season of my life. I have two kids with changing sleep schedules and I live in a country that would like to be a first world country, but hasn’t mastered that quite yet and I am in a major transition in so many areas of my life. Therefore I am pulling an Opposite Day (which will probably become an Opposite Season and Beyond!) Instead of being rigid and having flexibility within that. My new visual is of planning on top of water.

Planning On Water

Everything is always moving in water. Constantly, and the hotter the water, the faster the movement. Since it is coming up on a hot summer, I feel this way. The “plan” for each day is like I wrote in pen on a nice sheet of paper and set it down in water. I bet you can already see the visual of this metaphor.

But I am taking every thought captive, and recognizing that this IS the way it is, so I need to learn to function within this new world. So I am beginning with flexibility and ending with flexibility, and in between we have some light boundaries and structure.

I felt that I was spending more time planning than doing anything else because of the constant adjustments to the schedule. I would say okay 9:00 take a shower 9:30 Memverse 10:00 Homeschool with Davy and at 9:05 Kyrie would start screaming, so my shower loses its calm, and at 9:07 the lights go out. So, I spend the rest of my shower in the dark determining if I should get dressed and help Kyrie or get dressed and take care of the lights first. All the while Davy is standing at the door to my room crying because Kyrie is crying and the lights are out and he is hungry.

And something like that happens every day. I tracked what I did every minute for a week, and I found that I spend about 30 minutes every day in a frustrating situation like that. Then, my mind is constantly checking if what I am doing is worth doing because there might be something better.

Louis intervened, God intervened, and I finally said ENOUGH! Enough to my brain, enough to succumbing to living this frenetic way, and enough to wishing I didn’t have to get up today. I have passions and a calling, and I am going after them! So, I now plan less, and differently. I am learning to be in the moment of what I am doing with no regrets. If it turns out I should have been doing something, oh well, I did this. I loved on my kids and I prayed and I read and I wrote, and I rejoiced. I wasn’t rejoicing ever, and today I rejoiced. So take that negative Nellies, which is mostly just that other negative Annie pretending someone is mad at her to give her justification to feel guilty. My new method of planning is super simple!

This Ain’t Your Momma’s Planning

Or this Momma’s, but I am growing in flexibility. Here is what it looks like:


I have written down my Ideal List of what I want to get done with my time each day, and how much time I would like to spend on each thing. Then I put them in order by what needs to happen in each section of the day instead of using the o’clock method.


When we teach the incoming interns about culture we talk about the status of time in the culture. It turns out kids and Arabs function in similar ways, 6:45 doesn’t exist. There is morning (or as Davy would say, “When the sun is up”), afternoon (either “the sun’s been up a LONG time” or “the sun’s going away”), and evening (“the sun is gone”).

Then I have a secret fourth section of the day: Mommy Time in the night when everyone goes to sleep. This allows me to take the temperature of my day throughout the day. If we sleep in because we stayed up late with a teething baby or having coffee over at someone’s house, there are certain things that just will not happen the same. Breakfast will be something super fast, and the breakfast I had planned on cooking will be served for lunch.

When the Waves Hit

Davy’s Bible Story of the week is The Wise and Foolish Builder, so I want to have a strong foundation instead of sand. I want the waves to crash without causing damage. I want to be wise. One of the things I am tightening up in my house is the time between when my feet hit the floor out of bed and getting to Memverse. I call all of that time Waking Up in my general planning for MORNING because I barely am present for it, but it takes too long. So, I am working on not getting distracted by dishes, which can wait until lunch, or attention for the kids who both like having a quiet time in the morning anyway.

This is a time of constant flux, and I am learning to move with the boat instead of fighting to stay still and getting sea sick. As I said this is a time of becoming more decisive, and being positive that what I am doing is the right thing. When I can just sit in the task, moment, relationship, and event I find myself enjoying it more and also being much more productive. I am not wasting 10% of the time thinking about what else I have to do. There is time for that later.

Besides I am sure there is something super “important” my negative voice thought I should have been doing instead of having this tea party with Kyrie:

Meanwhile in Davy’s Room… Hey, Negative Self-Voice! This IS what’s important! These kids, these few short years until they grow up more. Like, tomorrow. So, Worry, wait outside please. I have to have a tea party for the next 17 years.

Goals to Build a Thriving Life in 2016

This is going to be a short post that will begin my weekly goal posts. I am going to post Mondays, and the goals will not include the weekends so that I have more slack to review my goals from the previous week. I just completed the course Make Over Your Mornings by Crystal Paine, one of my favorite bloggers. Much of the method to my goal setting comes from this course. I cannot place a measurement on Thriving, but by choosing the following measurable goals, I believe, day by day we will begin to thrive.

If you want to see my past posts on Goal Setting CLICK HERE.

My BIG GOALS for 2016

Self, Heart, & Soul:

    Read the Entire Bible Through (New Testament 5 Times)

List 1: New Testament – 4 Chapters Every Night Before Bed

    Once Complete Repeat all but Revelation

Old Testament Read 1 Chapter of Each List per Night

List 2: Prophets

        List 3: History

List 4: Law

List 5: Poetry

    Take Tim Challies’ 2016 Reading Challenge

My Goal is to Attempt Avid Reader this year, which is to read a book approximately every 2 weeks from the challenge list. This is audacious, but I think will help my soul and heart to attain the rhythm God and Louis are both impressing on my heart in this season of life.

Marriage Goals:

After finding the reading challenge mentioned above, Louis and I both have set reading goals, which will come from that challenge instead of add to that list.

    Louis: Read 6 Seminary Books

Finish Third Culture Kids

Finish Serving as Senders & Create our Blog Study for Partners in the States

Read 1 Book Together

Spend Intentional Time Together Just for Us 3x per Week.

Family (Mothering, Parenting) Goals:

Many of the goals for this year are not truly Big Goals for the year, but just building routines. At the end of the year I want to be able to look back and see several things accomplished however.

David Potty Trained

School Decision Made for Davy

Routines in Place:

    Grocery Shopping without Louis

    Teeth Brushing (Davy Learn and Do it Routinely)

    Bath Time (Water Heater Routines and Bathing)

Pause for PRAISE here for our evening routine at bedtime working so well and continuing to include Bible Reading to the kids!

David getting dressed and undressed by himself

Arabic Study Plan: Study 1 hour per day. 20-30 min. per day for Davy.

Ministry & Discipleship Goals

The Arabic Study Plan of course is part of our ministry here, and once that plan is in place it will cover many of these categories.

Mommy Book Blog: Post Weekly Goals once a week for accountability and twice a month posts on books and parenting and life in Lebanon.

Lisses to Lebanon Blog: Post twice a month. Hopefully one from each of us each month about missionary life and ministry.

In the past I made many mini goals, but these BIG GOALS will be broken into bite size (weekly) pieces and posted each Monday in Weekly Goals. Feel free to post your own goals so we can all keep each other accountable.

Book Review: Grace Under Pressure

I had no expectations with this book beyond its being a Cozy Mystery. Julie Hyzy was a name that was new to me, and I had not heard of her other series either, the White House Chef Mysteries. One of the keys to a Cozy Mystery is that there is a hobby or profession of the main character that usually does not lend itself to being involved in crime solving and detective work. I tend to read those Cozies that share in my own hobbies and interests, so this book was a step outside of my normal range of Cozy reading. Grace, the main character, is a curator for a manor. I think when I was creating my wishlist at the library I was trying to find Cozies with librarians, and the organization of that type of administration led to several museum related Cozies. This book is about an old manor that has been turned into a museum and hotel. The main character, through Hyzy’s writing, truly did draw me in to love her job and location. I left the book wanting to visit this place and meet her, and several days later was still thinking about that idea. It was sad each time for my brain to catch up with my dreaming and realize that she is not real.

    This book had several characters and writing choices that might cause discomfort to some readers in continuing the series. The roommates of Grace are gay, and there was some swearing, but it was always immediately cut off by some interruption after only the first letter. I mention these points because I have found myself reading a Cozy or two in the past that I feel duty-ridden to try to get past similar minor discomforts, but after finishing the book realized that I should not be feeling guilty. There are so many books in the Mystery section that are not for me, and I don’t need to read an entire series trying to get past some quirk of a character that I can’t stand when there are other books with characters I fall in love with, as I did with this book. In fact, as soon as I got to the library the next time, I scooped up every book Hyzy had. For me, these two things were nothing, but I want to be transparent in my review since I am recommending the first book in a series. Julie has me reading her books now, and I highly recommend them.

    The setting was modern day, but brought into play the way that manors used to be run, and that was wonderful for me. I realized reading it that this is something I do enjoy, and often think I can only find in British Literature. It was wonderful to have an American setting that shared some history. I also loved that the romance did not come rushing on strong in the first book. It is expected that the main character, usually female, in a Cozy Mystery will have at least two men pursuing her, and a bad relationship in her past. It was nice to not push all of that into this first book. Having male characters around that were plutonic and gay actually was relieving because it is nice to have friends. The romantic story had some tension placed, but it was not rushed. Finally, there are conversations with women that are not merely about relationships, which in film passes the Bechdel Test. I loved that. The characters were full and gave me excitement to learn more about not just the main characters, but also the side characters that were introduced. The twists in the story did not all get resolved with the resolution of the murder, so there is also that excitement to look forward to in future books. I am also going to read the White House Chef Mysteries, so stay tuned for a review on that series. If you want to take a jaunt through a modern day time machine, this is your book.

The facts about the book.

Title: Grace Under Pressure: A Manor of Murder Mysteries

Author: Julie Hyzy

Place: Marshfield Manor, Emberstowne (a fictional city somewhere in the US) & mentions of Florida & New York

Publisher: Berkeley Prime Crime, New York

Publication Date: June 2010

# Pages: 310

Special Features: Murder Mystery, Curator, Manor, Gardening, Wealth, Scandal, Ponzi Scheme, First Book in a Series

Price: Free from the library or from $0.01 from Amazon

ISBN: 978-0-425-23521-8

Book Review: 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids

I got this book from the library, took it home, and realized I had already pinned almost everything in the book! I already follow the blog and love the ideas! However, being in transition for so long has given me only enough motivation to pin and not enough to do. With the book in hand I was able to share it with my son, who immediately chose some things he wanted to do. I was also able to explain some of the ideas to my husband with the pictures and explanations and chapters. Wow I love books!

    I have wanted to do sensory bins for some time, and this book had some great ideas. Once I was able to show this book to my husband he latched on to the idea, and the next day we went out and bought the bin ($3 at Walmart), a bag of insects, lizards, and frogs ($1 at the dollar store), a bag of shells at Michaels ($5) and we had everything we needed for several of the ideas in the book. We already have at home many many small figurines in lots of themes: farm, dinosaur, ocean, Noah’s ark (multiples of animals), desert, rainforest, Arctic, etc. I am not crafty and artsy by myself, and I was a little concerned that I would put too much work in and nothing would come of it, but Davy loved it! Louis loved it, and I am looking forward to adding this to our homeschooling this year as a recurring activity.


The second thing I was excited to take from Pinterest to Reality was Discovery bottles. It is so easy to see the beautiful pictures on Pinterest and in reality the work outweighs the reward, or the supplies are out of reach. Since we chose an ocean theme first, since we were reading Jonah, we wanted to make a Discovery Bottle with sand and shells and shiny marbles. What we got was a murky mess. This book included the same Discovery Bottle I had pinned, and upon actually reading the instructions, it calls for craft sand or no sand at all. As I said I am not creative on my own, so it was essential that I get these two ideas because I had not thought of it myself. The book also explained that upon filling the bottle with water or gel or oil it might be too heavy for baby to lift. This was very useful because it brought my expectations to reality, and when it was too heavy for Kyrie, Davy and I just dumped it into the ocean sensory bin and played with the items ourselves.

    I hope the two experiences I took out of this book can give an idea of the usefulness of this book. If you are like me and are looking for ideas to play with kids, and would like them to be in your hand instead of in the digital expanse, this is the book for you. I love this book, and I am going to be using it quite a bit this year. Too bad the library only lets me renew books 4 times. Other fun things in this book include Slimes, Doughs, Paint (including all-natural paint that you color using items like carrots, beets, & spinach), other Sensory Activities, and DIY Toys. I am so excited to share with you in the coming years all about how I am using this book (and the corresponding blog).

The facts about the book.

Title: 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids: The Very Best and Easiest Playtime Activities from!

Author: Asia Citro, MEd

Publisher: Adams Media, Avon, Massachusetts

Publication Date: 2014

# Pages: 255

Special Features: Easy Doable Activities, Upcycled Supplies, Age Range for Each Activity

Price: Free from the library or Kindle Unlimited, and the ideas are all on the website/blog The books even have some DIY kits to give these books as gifts to a parent. $12.66 on Amazon or read for Free on Kindle Unlimited.

ISBN: 978-1-4405-7615-7