We are an environment

Saturday, April 25

On Monday morning, Avonlea emphatically exclaimed "mama, today we should go on a walk, eat dinner (what she calls breakfast, ha), and have a party with a cake and tea!"

There are quite a few things I can't make happen for her right now, but I could most definitely make this dream a reality, haha!

So, after our planned walk and breakfast, we got to work making a cake and tea. I used this paleo cake recipe which is the BEST cake I've ever tasted, seriously so so good. Go make it! For the tea (which is "hot chocolate" but not) I actually use almond milk mixed with chocolate protein powder, haha...keeping it healthy and the sugar content low.

Avonlea was quite particular this day...she asked if we could wear our fancy dresses. I let her pick mine out (side-note...she picks this dress out for me every single day to wear, but I never do) and she and I twirled and talked in our "Fancy voice" which is essentially a very bad British accent, haha!

When we went to go set up our spread, it dawned on me how many beautiful tid bits we have here and there that could enhance the aesthetics. I mean, there is nothing wrong with sitting at our kitchen table with normal plates. But I thought about the choice I had to make things "fancy" (as we were already doing) and chose to try to bring a little air of "specialness" into our quiet, ordinary little life.

Friends, finding beauty has been getting us through this quarantine.

Choosing to accept my reality right here, and then looking for the gifts and treasures inside it.

Oh friends, do you know that we are an environment in and of ourselves? Edith Schaffer (one of my favorite authors ever) wrote

"In the power of the Holy Spirit ....we are an environment which is affecting people around us. People who come across us or who walk into our presence, become involved. Whether we choose to be an environment or not, we are. We produce an environment other people have to live in.  The effect on them is something they cannot avoid."

At home,
in my ordinary days,
with my two small children...
what environment am I choosing?

But ohhhhh...how this lifted me up in the most inspiring of ways...

"Enthusiasm and excitement infect other people: expectancy that God can intervene and do something in this moment of history and doing something practical to show that expectancy in prayer, affects the attitudes other people are going to have to their troubles"

Today I choose to be an environment that is EXCITED about what GOD CAN DO in this moment of history.

I want to invite Avonlea into praying for our friends and neighbors.

I want to invite my babies into an environment of creativity and beauty that displays the splendor and loveliness of our God.

Beauty can be brought forth in any form...
worshipping with your children
flowers picked in your garden
twirling in a pretty dress
music played and listened to
prayers uttered together
delicious food
reading a book aloud

Friends...we get to CHOOSE.
Oh how wonderful...what wonderful news!
We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to choose beauty within the space God has given us.
Even in frugal conditions, with not much to spare financially, God will enable us to bring beauty. As Edith says "sacrifice does not mean ugliness, nor does it mean carelessness"

Ohhh....love that!

So let's accept our reality, and press into an environment that leads other straight into the heart of our glorious King! The most BEAUTIFUL one of all! 

My English Cottage goals…our climbing rose

Monday, April 20

When we moved into our house 4 years ago, I had grand visions of transforming our humble abode (truly) into a thing of British beauty! Since I've always been a devoted Anglophile (ie: I LOVE all things England!), my vision for the house was a precious country garden and proper little cottage, with climbing roses of course!

 The facade of our house was a an extremely lackluster brown brick (poopy brown as I referred to it), and it.had.to.go. Sooo.....

The first month we lived there my mother in law flew up and we painted the entire front of our house! We borrowed paint sprayers from a friend who used to own a painting company and went to town. We scrubbed and primed and painted our little hearts out, and the end result was so satisfying! (For reference, the color I chose is called China White.)

I will show you are before and after of the front of our house soon, but today I just had to show you how gorgeous our climbing rose is in all it's blooming glory! Last year I put a pink climbing rose on my birthday list, and my brother and sister-in-law surprised me with it a few days before my birthday in March. It was like 2 feet tall and maybe had about 10 roses on it last year.

A little over a year later, this beauty has CLIMBED!! It is now half way across our library and garage, and I can't wait to see it continue to grow. This year it has just bursted at the seams with roses! It's a Cecil Brunner climbing rose, and it has just been spectacular!

When I step outside onto my porch it is filled with the natural perfume of these lovely buds. It has brought so so much JOY to me in this season. Every day the kids and I sit out on the porch with a popsicle and enjoy the roses…Avonlea has started saying "mama, aren't they so so so so beautiful?", it's adorable.

What are the small joys in your world today? xoxo 

How Covid-19 is affecting Turkey - An interview with Jocette

Wednesday, April 15

 Kevin and I traveled to Turkey in 2014, and it was a life changing trip. The people we met, the scenery we saw, the history that came alive...all impacted my life in a sweet way. One of the friendly Turkish people we met was Salih...he was a friend of a friend who kindly showed us around the Asian part of Istanbul and took us to a cool coffee shop. We've stayed in touch, and were recently invited to his wedding near Ephesus. Sadly, we couldn't attend, but I've gotten to know his wife through IG, and asked if I could interview her. 

Jocette is adorable, and is championing the unique Turkish lifestyle and cuisine on her blog Hasat Gunu.  She has a masters in gastronomy from Boston University (which is pretty amazing...I didn't even know that was a thing) so she's pretty qualified to write a food blog, ha! I can't wait for you to connect with her! 

I asked her a few questions about how covid-19 is affecting Turkey. Here are her answers....

First....Tell me a little about yourself:
Proudly born in New Mexico and raised all over America - Texas, Colorado and New Jersey. I went to university in Boston and studied business for my undergrad and then received an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. This gastronomy program was founded by Julia Child and it shaped my perspective on using food to study culture. I first came to Istanbul on a week-long family vacation and instantly fell in love. The next summer after my sophomore year, I came back to Istanbul with a summer service trip through my university. At this point, I was hooked and I just had to live in Turkey for more than just a summer. At the time, I worked with an organization that helped to teach the English language and culture in Istanbul. Through mutual friends, my husband, Salih, and I met! He had been living in Istanbul for nearly ten years but is actually from Izmir. Even though we both love the culture, art, people, and restaurants of Istanbul, we wanted to be closer to family and away from Istanbul traffic (it's a huge problem - think LA multiplied by 5). Izmir is often referred to as the California of Turkey - it has long coastlines, acts as an agricultural powerhouse for the country and has a much more relaxed social culture. From our local beach outside of Ephesus, we look out over the Aegean sea and can see the islands of Greece in the distance. It is a dreamy place, especially in the Spring and Summer.

When I was in America, I realized that many people do not know a lot about Turkish culture. I primarily started my blog, Hasat Günü (which means 'Day of Harvest' in Turkish), to teach my friends and family more about the language, culture, food, and my life in Turkey. I want to bring more awareness and love for this place because a big part of our family and hearts will always be in Turkey!

1) Where do you currently live and what brought you there?

I live in Izmir, Turkey with my Turkish husband, Salih. We were recently married in Izmir and had a wedding weekend, with both a western and Turkish ceremony! We actually met while we were both living in Istanbul but then moved to Izmir to be closer to my husband's family.


2) What do you love most about where you live?

Izmir sits on the western coast of Turkey, directly across from Greece. My husband's family lives in a beautiful coastal village an hour outside of Izmir and it is our favorite place to interact with nature and detach from city-living. We have spent some time and effort to redesign a little summer house in the village - it is five minutes from Ephesus, the local beach, a freshwater spring, and the family olive orchards. After a weekend here, we always feel rejuvenated!

3) How has your city and country been affected by Covid-19?

Turkey is taking it hard, this is a very warm and social culture so the idea of isolation is particularly challenging for Turks. But I can see Turks uniting right now, every night at 9 pm, people come out onto their balcony and start to applaud the healthcare workers that are risking their lives to fight this virus. It is really encouraging to see everyone emerging from their apartments and cheering for each other. 

4) How have you personally be affected?

Salih and I feel very grateful and fortunate because we know how many people are struggling right now. We can continue to work from home with some modifications. Of course, this pandemic throws off some of our plans for the Summer and even the Fall, but that is such a minor issue at this point.

5) How have you seen God work in the midst of this time?

As a newly married couple, I can see how God is using this time in our marriage to work on communication, have deeper conversations, be silly together and to be a source of comfort for each other. Before we were married, we did long-distance for one year and it was so hard. I am so grateful we are in the same place during this experience.

On a larger scale, I can see that God is using this time to encourage people to return to what matters to them at their core - family, friends, faith, joy, and hope. For good or for bad, we are coming face-to-face with what we put our trust in - this can be a really pivotal experience for many to make changes and restructure their priorities.

Thank you so much for sharing Jocette:) I always love getting a look into how other people are experiencing life in places all around the world! And...don't forget to swoon over the whimsical way in which Jocette has brought to life scenes of Turkish gastronomy through her creative team of artists! To see and learn more about Turkish life and culture, check out her blog here. 

And...for links to my Turkey & Greece itinerary, click here! 

Our Easter

Monday, April 13

He is Risen!! He is Risen Indeed!!
(Avie learned to say this phrase this year, and it was fun to watch her shout it with JOY!)

This was probably the most meaningful Easter I've ever had.
Funny, given the circumstance.
I had thought social distancing and covid would put a damper on it.
But not even a pandemic can dampen the brilliance of the cross,
when rightly understood and experienced.

I woke up with the sun shining on my face, my heart crying out "He has RISEN!"
and my soul exclaiming the sentiment.
There was resonance. 
We're always supposed to be excited about Easter,
but truth be told,
it's the tradition of gathered family, boisterous laughter and delicious food that normally riles me.
Not necessarily what Jesus did on the cross.

But not this year.

This year I woke a free woman. As many of you read in this post, I spent almost four years living in bondage. Last Easter Jesus begin freeing me from the stronghold, and this Easter I feel like I was FULLY experiencing the FREE and OVERFLOWING redemptive and abundant life Christ died for us to have.

You can expect to hear more about these strongholds, but for now, I'm mulling over this process and journey in my heart and asking God for clarity in how to write about it. My prayer and hope is that my experience might touch and reach out to any of you that feel caught or trapped by a stronghold. The saddest part, is that I wasn't even fully aware or had the ability to articulate what exactly was going on in my life at the time, in regards to a stronghold.

But Easter was gorgeous, both inside my heart and outside in the physical world. It was sunny and the whole world seemed to be blooming and blossoming. The air smelled sweet and the sun warm and bright.

We started the day listening to a few different services, our home church and then a bigger mega church we used to go to. To stand in my kitchen and worship the Lord, hands raised, holding a babe, was holy.  Then we played outside in our new sandbox that Kevin built on Saturday (or as I've been calling it…my free babysitter, as the kids LOVE it hahah).

Then we went over to my parents house (We have been quarantining with my parents). My dad made a roast lamb, and my mom had a delicious spread and topped it off with angel food cake and strawberries. Is angel food cake an Easter tradition for anyone else?

We then hid the eggs so Avonlea could hunt for them! She loved it so much, it was adorable. We did about 3 rounds of easter egg hunts, haha! My parents still always do a scavenger hunt for us kids (even though we are all in our 30's, haha! We always get candy and a Christian book, so sweet.

What did you do this Easter? Sending you lots of hugs and blessing: )