Beirut wedding

(I wrote this poem December 5,  2002 in my middle school reading class. I believe the assignment was either: write something based on a photo or a news story. Although this is not the original photo, I found this one online that I believe echoes the same sentiment.)

People cheer as a Lebanese bride and groom pose for pictures on August 18, 2013 at the site of a car bomb explosion that killed at least 27 people on August 15 in Beiruts Rweiss neighbourhood . The death toll from a car bombing that ripped through a Beirut stronghold of the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah has risen to at least 27, the health ministry said. The toll is the highest in Lebanon since a massive car bomb attack on the Beirut seafront killed then prime minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others in February 2005.  AFP PHOTO/STR            (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

People cheer as a Lebanese bride and groom pose for pictures on August 18, 2013 at the site of a car bomb explosion that killed at least 27 people on August 15 in Beiruts Rweiss neighbourhood . The death toll from a car bombing that ripped through a Beirut stronghold of the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah has risen to at least 27, the health ministry said. The toll is the highest in Lebanon since a massive car bomb attack on the Beirut seafront killed then prime minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others in February 2005. AFP PHOTO/STR
(Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Beirut wedding. 

Amongst the rubble walk the pair,

Acting as though they don’t have a care.

The street they walk is in a bombed out city,

But still the bride and groom look pretty.

If I were to wed the man I love,  a new beginning would come,

even if the streets and buildings were blown, our love would still be widely known.

It doesn’t matter to them that they live in a town that has turned this way

Their love is so special, high above all

That not even war and hate can make it fall.

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6 books: all things middle east

Let me preface this “Book List” post with this- this is an incredibly multi-faceted area and as a result, it often seems like there is always more to uncover. I am a data-gatherer by nature, I scour news articles, travel blogs and books on a regular basis. (By the way, check out your local library-save money!) The “Middle East” and all things related—sit under an immensely huge umbrella, with so many possible sub-points it makes your head spin.

A multitude of nations, people, and languages lie here.

But, I do want to avoid that if at all possible… so here is a list of books I have accumulated, that I really enjoyed or think hold a lot of value in helping gain even just a bit of understanding and insight to this area. The search for understanding really never ends, but in my opinion, this is not a bad thing. This list is by no means an extensive list, it covers a few areas and a few topics.

6 Titles to consider:


The author and her family in Petra

The author and her family in Petra

1) Married  to a Bedouin,

by  Marguerite van Geldermalsen

This is a delightful, quick read about a New Zealand woman that visits Petra in Jordan and decides to stay. She marries a local Bedouin man named Mohammad. They raise their children in one of the cave dwellings amidst the ancient history, tourists and Bedouin tribal customs there. The author captures a lot of traditions that are dying out amidst the modernizing tribe. She also shares the perspective of a Westerner amidst a foreign environment and the unique challenges of “fitting in”. She raises her children and continues to integrate her values, with those of the tribe she has come to be a part of.


McAllester's experience in 2003 Iraq

McAllester’s challenging experience in 2003 Iraq

2) Blinded by the Sunlight: Surviving Abu Ghraib and Saddam’s Iraq– by Matthew Mcallester

This is a “raw” look at what happened in Baghdad when Coalition forces bombed it in 2003. The author is a British reporter that failed to evacuate and was then detained in the infamous Iraqi prison, Abu Ghraib. The author supplies history and personal accounts of Saddam’s Iraq in a way that highlights their role in a greater story.

King Abdullah with his children. This man is incredible.

King Abdullah with his children. This man is incredible.

3) Audio version* of Our Last Best Chance: The Pursuit of Peace in a Time of Peril- by King Abdullah II of Jordan

 *I recommend the audio version of this book because the voice actor is Nadim Sawalha and his voice is remarkably similar to the King’s. I just think you can “feel” this book as you listen to it.

 If you aren’t familiar with the King of Jordan, check out his appearance on Jon Stewart– his natural charisma is clear.

The King artfully weaves his story of growing up in Jordan, America, and England, with history of the area. He reveals how interconnected Jordan is with its’ neighbors, and his family’s role in working for peace in the area. He also focuses heavily on his (which was also his father’s, his grandfather’s and his great-grandfather’s) plan for what he considers, “the last best chance” for securing peace to the region.

I really enjoyed this book because it really gave me a new perspective on Jordan and Israel/Palestine from someone who can understand living in the region and the West. The book had me slightly frustrated as to how current talks/conflicts have been going, as it seems certain patterns repeat, and optimism and hope fades. Regardless, this book confirmed to me that if peace is to come out of this region that it will most likely come from within.  And those inside voices (such as King Abdullah’s) are highly qualified to see that peace come about.  

Tea with Hezbollah cover

4) Tea with Hezbollah: Sitting at the Enemies Table Our Journey Through the Middle East– by Ted Dekker and Carl Medearis


This book is an adventure in and around a few hot spots of the Middle East that two friends take. They are an unlikely pair- one filling the role of fearful newcomer to the area and the other the seasoned, trusting pro. They seek out all sorts of people, land very “hard to come by” interviews and ask people very simple questions in what I see as an attempt to point out the similarities between us and the people that we usually see as “different” or even “enemies”. There is an interwoven narrative throughout it that serves to draw you in and help you see this area in a different way.


The area of focus in the book.

The area of focus in the book.

 5)The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam by Eliza Griswold

This is a very worthwhile read. It examines the Tenth Parallel, (the line of latitude 700 miles north of the equator) around which it seems that Christian and Muslim (and indigenous religion) tensions are at an all-time high. The developing world is seeing a huge growth in each religion, and unfortunately the hostility continues. Griswold examines why and how and in what ways these interactions are taking place. She weaves history as needed with research and statistics to bring light to fuzzy topics. She personally travels to these places and gives her honest take on what she sees, allowing the reader to draw his or her own opinion. These are things we may hear about, but never really hear the whole story on, this book tries to change that.

And my final title…..

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time 9780143038252

6)  Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time –by Greg Mortenson , David Oliver Relin

 This is an incredibly, beautifully written story about a man, Greg Mortenson, and his unlikely career change to humanitarian and educational activist in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Greg ends up in Pakistan to climb K-2, and ends up falling in love with the area, making it his personal mission to see one local village have its own school building. Basically, the book talks about his work over the 1990’s- early 2000’s, investing his life and all of his time, in seeing the school, and eventually many, many schools and other projects come to fruition in the area.

Let me touch on some of the controversy about this, although much of seems to have been resolved. Specifically in one essay, Three Cups of Deceit, written by Jon Krakauer, Greg and his organization are put under the microscope to see if he is telling the truth and stewarding money and resources properly. Krakauer found holes in a lot of Greg’s stories, especially some that were very “foundational” in why Greg was doing this specific work. That was a very hard pill for Greg’s devoted fans to stomach, especially those who had invested a lot of money in this organization over the years.

Greg has eventually responded to the claims, in Outside magazine, and in other interviews, but as you can imagine, this knowledge does put a odor over his work, and leaves some with questions. I have yet to read Three Cups of Deceit, but I plan on reading it next.

Overall, I thought the book, Three Cups of Tea was written beautifully by Relin, and therefore, it is a great book for that reason alone. The sheer enchanting imagery and the interactions it portrays between the people and Greg as well as just stories from villagers- is such a great insight into life in rural Pakistan. But, there are definitely a lot of questions, because humanitarian work- whether relief or developmental- is a very tricky thing to execute well.

Although Greg and his organization CAI may have the best intentions, sometimes the reality of his solutions- throwing money at problems (often disguised in the form of “building schools”, “setting up water-projects”, or “paying overdue teacher’s salaries”) as the end-all answer just didn’t seem right. This method leaves you wanting more and expecting more from a man so “entrenched” in the culture and place. Regardless, I recommend this book- not as a “how-to manual” on development work, but as a great conversation starter as to what the solutions could be as well as a great testimony of a man’s life work and love for a people and area.

I hope you will consider reading some of these books as a stepping-off point to gain new insight into the region. Have you read any of these titles? What did you think? Do you have any suggestions for me to check out?

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Jordan journey

It has taken me a few months to process my trip to Jordan last November. I have been able to share some stories here and there, but I wanted to make sure I continued that discussion. Without further ado, here is a hopefully, more thorough picture of that trip. Please feel free to ask any questions.

My Papa has given me a huge gift. He gave me a week of experiences, new friends, and heart-piercing stories.  Small acts of obedience and steps of faith led me to this and because of that I can assure you of this: nothing for God is wasted, He sees what you offer Him, and He can take it and magnify it beyond what you could ever imagine.

Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

Prior to this year, my interest in the Middle East was sparked by some classes, news stories, and delicious meals at a Palestinian restaurant in West Palm Beach. I also knew about this guy, Carl Medearis and his stories about the area were just crazy enough that I knew I had to see “this place”. I had little tastes here and there, and I knew if I was just given the chance, I would really jump headlong in and see what this place was all about. What I discovered was just a small sliver of a very complex and difficult to recreate dish, but it was full of flavors and pockets of surprises that have me very much wanting to “order” more.

Amman, to the west

Amman, to the west

Do you know how you can research something and have a picture of a place and even hear stories from those who have been, but what you actually discover is SO MUCH MORE? For example, people love crème Brule, right? They say it’s the best dessert out there. So, you decide to find out for yourself, and go to a restaurant and order a crème Brule and…… it’s pretty much the best thing you ever tasted! You are in shock because everyone was wrong, there is no description really to do it justice, it’s just so good! That was my experience in Jordan this past November.

Can I just tell you this? God will take you and lead you by the hand and show you some wonderful things, but you have to keep your eyes open. He is constantly trying to show me things, but far too often I am so caught up in “my” world and my “needs”, that I end up feeling like God is silent. This is definitely not the case. This week was a week outside of me, with my focus fixed on the needs of my team, the support crew and the new friends we made- many of them refugees. Because I could silence my own wants for a few hours, I could finally hear the things God was trying to teach me. I am not saying that my mind or my heart could really take in all the things He wanted to show me, but I was much, more aware of these things. I would suggest to you if you feel like you are in a dry spot, where God isn’t really “showing up”, stop looking at yourself so much, focus on others and their needs and see the way God shows up for you.

Beautiful piece of wall, Amman

Beautiful piece of wall, Amman

For me, it was not simply about doing good things or feeling good by serving, it was obedience- and doing what God’s word has commanded me to do that really brought new light and new clarity to my life. All too often, we remain blind to the world around us. Sure, we can read the news, feel empathy, but actually going, entering in to another person’s life of suffering, that changes things. Also, I would say that my view of “ministry” and bringing the kingdom to earth has expanded quite a bit. I knew we would be doing our relief work through a church, but I had no idea or no measure of an idea of just how big and how effective (as much as that word is debated) the work being done really is. All too often, we get ideas in our heads that we know the best way to do something or that somehow the solution to the world’s problems rests with us. God has shown me that as much as I have heard this- He truly is and has been at work in the world.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­First let me address some basic questions about what I did, where I was and who I was with.

When did you go?

I went at the end of November, and was there during Thanksgiving. We left December 3rd to head back home. Altogether, all the work was done within one very full week. With travel and “tourist” activities there were a few extra days on either side of that week.

Temple of Hercules, Citadel, Amman

Temple of Hercules, Citadel, Amman

Who did you go with?

The official organization is called and it is run by an incredible guy named Scott Gore. He has an awesome heart for the hurting and helps people like me get to go to these places and help.  The actual people that came together were an interesting group of folks from all over and all ages and backgrounds. We were all connected by a desire to be involved in work helping the Syrian refugees and interest in the Middle East.

Some awesome folks from my team at the Citadel

Some awesome folks from my team at the Citadel

Let’s clarify, where were you again?

We flew into Amman, Jordan, and from there traveled about an hour north to the town of Mafraq. Mafraq was our headquarters for the week of service. We stayed here, partnering with a local church that has been hard at work serving the refugees living in their midst. (We never went to Syria nor had any plans to go there.)

Wait! There are Christians in the Middle East?

Yes, there is a strong Christian population in the Middle East that dates back to the first Christians. Christians occupy an “accepted” niche in Jordan and there is a lot of peaceful co-existence. In fact, in Mafraq, many of the Christians are much respected because of the work they are doing for everyone regardless of their faith (in the refugee community).

So, what did you do? Describe a “typical” day.

The nature of the work made things hard to plan. We quickly learned this in the weeks leading up to the trip, so we all tried to keep an open mind. After our initial orientation and adjustment time, we did one of three main activities:

  1. Home visits- typically during the day from noon onwards, small groups from our team would go with the local volunteers who spoke Arabic and would translate for us. Most volunteers spoke some combination of Arabic and English. On these visits, we would typically bring food packets (very heavy bags of staples that might last a month), toys, and a ready heart to listen, ask questions and be sensitive to the specific home we were visiting.

    Dinner at an incredible family's home

    Dinner at an incredible family’s home

  2. Distributions- usually done at night, maybe 4 of us (2 guys, 2 girls) and 2 local workers would drive to different houses to deliver basic home items like simple foam mattresses, blankets, sheets, pillows, heaters, and gas tanks. These visits were done quickly, with the intention of getting the goods delivered to as many as possible in one evening. Interactions did not really go beyond a simple smile or handshake but they were very special, regardless.

    The city street at night from the roof

    The city street at night from the roof

  3. Story and craft time with Syrian refugee kids in the church school- The church has a school in the mornings for the kids about 5-8 years old. They have about 3 classes and teach the kids with Syrian teachers and other volunteers. For one hour, we could play with the kids, do a craft project, and sing or dance or tell a story for the kids. We all rotated through this at least once.
    The kids loved making flags from tissue paper

    The kids loved making flags from tissue paper

    Drawing was much enjoyed

    Drawing was much enjoyed

    Steve telling the kids about the craft of the day

    Steve telling the kids about the craft of the day

There was typically a team meeting at breakfast with a devotional from one of the team members. We would figure out a loose idea of what the day held and then prepare for those things.  Helping in the school would take place before lunch. All the visits would start after lunchtime. Distribution would not start until after dark, and usually we found out right before if it would take place or not. Dinner was often had at the homes of the families we met or with the team at different cafes around the city. Sometimes we bought different fruits and vegetables and ate very casually. The evening hours usually involved discussing what our day was like on the roof or in one of the common areas. Some nights, we learned Arabic worship songs, drank tea or simply decompressed in our rooms journaling or reading.

Delicious shared lunch

Delicious shared lunch

Were you safe? Did you feel in danger?

I was incredibly safe and always felt that way. I went with a little bit of information on how to act and dress as a woman and a foreigner and I always tried to respect the local customs. With that said, the volunteers at the church made sure we understood certain standards and always took care of us. The male team members also went out of their way to look out for the women. I never felt like my money or other valuables were in danger. Crossing the street was probably the scariest thing, or possibly just driving on the roads, but those things (surprisingly) always went smoothly.

Funny car on the street

Funny car on the street

What is the situation like for the refugees?

Most refugees arrive on foot from Syria. Most flee the fighting, or the bombing of their neighborhoods. Many do not want to leave, and wait till they have no choice, or move from town to town within Syria till they arrive at one of the borders of the neighboring countries.  Most of the families we spoke to desperately love and miss their homes, and want to return as soon as they can. Most people after crossing the border are placed by the government in Za’atari camp along with their UN papers declaring them refugees. They carry very little or nothing with them and are forced to make a new life for themselves with whatever resources they can scrounge up. Most people do not want to stay in the camp, and in order to move out must be “vouched” for by a Jordanian citizen who they might pay (sometimes not) to get their signature. They then move to Mafraq or one of the neighboring towns.  Here, they are free to move about, have privacy, and what feels a bit more “normal” but they are essentially on their own.

One refugee we met, living in a tent on the roof of a home

One refugee we met, lives in a tent on the roof of a home. Here a teammate looks inside.

                What are the next steps I could take to help?

First of all, I would urge you to pray- for the people still in Syria, as well as those fleeing Syria and living in the surrounding countries. Pray for the government and especially the president- Bashar al-Assad- that he might have a powerful encounter with Jesus. I believe that there is no clear solution to the war, but regardless, we need to remember the people hurting because of it and stand with them. World Vision is one organization that is currently doing a ton of great work responding to the refugee crisis. They have an extensive network that is seeking to address a variety of the needs they see.

The following links are very informative and straightforward regarding what they are doing and how we can help.

Second, please pray for the workers doing the brunt of the humanitarian efforts in and around Mafraq. Many of the workers I met are very dedicated to bringing aid, resources, hope and joy to the refugees.  They are willing to sacrifice much- sleep, the risk of hardships, and much more to do this work. Please consider them and life them up often, because they are an important link connecting these families to the church and ultimately the Source of hope.

Mafraq means Crossroads, and this is very symbolic for many workers, as it the railway connecting parts of the Middle East

Mafraq means Crossroads, and this is very symbolic for many workers, as is this railway connecting parts of the Middle East

                Is there an end in sight?

That answer is difficult, but as long as the workers have this opportunity to enter in to these people’s lives due to the situation- it is a blessing in disguise. Each event has many unforeseen effects and despite a lot of heartache, good is coming out of the most horrible things.


A beautiful sunrise and reminder of beauty amidst brokenness

A beautiful sunrise and reminder of beauty amidst brokenness

“Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For who can know the Lord’s thoughts?
    Who knows enough to give him advice? And who has given him so much
    that he needs to pay it back? For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.”

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unexpected connections

A heavy snowfall has blanketed areas of the Middle East. Depending on what news source you go to- you might get one of two stories related to this. First, you might see pictures of surprised residents taking joy in the unexpected snow and enjoying it by having a snowball fight or by building a snowman. If you search farther, you might see that not everyone can frolic in the newly fallen snow. There are many, many people on whom the snow has fallen- and it has brought on them a depth of hardship not easily melted.

Many of you know that I recently traveled to the north of Jordan to serve Syrian refugees living in and around the town of Mafraq. I was fortunate to have an introduction to the CMA church and its team of dedicated workers, headed by Pastor Nour. The ministry is vibrant, alive and responding to the needs they see in a creative and faithful manner. They are trustworthy with the resources they are given, diligent to seek out the truth and give to those in the neediest situations, yet doing so in a way that restores dignity, hope and joy. You can look at the work they are doing here.

As you can imagine, the work is immense- it takes a lot of time, hands and prayer. The list they have built from registering refugees has grown very long. As distribution of items takes place, oftentimes, it seems to grow just as quickly. Yet, as needs are slowly met, changes happen and God’s hand is seen at work. With the recent snowfall and general change in climate to winter weather- new challenges are apparent.

Many families live in whatever dwelling they can find or afford. Sometimes, it is a one-room entry way of a home with a small kitchen area. Other times, it is an unfinished room that looks like a shed. Sometimes, it is a shed, formerly used to keep sheep, or as some situations revealed- presently to keep sheep, despite the people’s presence. Many, many people live in Zaatari camp on the outskirts of al Mafraq town. People here live in tents provided by the UNHCR; they are packed in densely, and then fenced in. The camp looks like an ocean of white stretching far on the horizon surrounded by dry desert- a generally bleak landscape. There are other such camps- some official and some merely necessary around the borders of Syria in other neighboring countries. One article I found talked about those in Lebanon, recently fleeing army clashes and seeking safety for their families. With the recent weather, life is not necessarily any better for them. Can you imagine the physical conditions of your “house” being so bad that being near an active battle would be “better”?

Many of you know that I live in South Florida. We live with the threat of hurricanes for five months out of the year. The past few years have gone by without a serious storm here- and we are grateful for that. But, nearly 8 years ago, a hurricane named Wilma came and left many of us in a very desperate place. My family chose to evacuate, because we live about 15 feet from the ocean, in a single story “Conch” cottage. The projected storm surge warning was concerning enough that we decided to leave. Most of the island chain lies at sea level, so any projected storm surge would be a cause for concern for anything on the ground level. We did our best to pack up our things, get everything off the ground onto beds and shelves and loaded into one car for the mainland. There is a preparedness mentality we have been taught growing up here, but we left not expecting anything serious to actually happen. I can remember returning to the Keys after the area was deemed safe.

We live on a long, fairly empty road on one of the more “rural” islands. As we crept along the road to our house, the pavement was covered by sand, rocks, and general debris. It seemed like the water had stirred up the land and left behind a mess. We would later discover that water levels had reached 5-8 ft above sea level. At our house- the 2 cars left behind were completely flooded and total losses (my beautiful blue Volvo station wagon (a gift from a friend) and my step-dad’s classic Cadillac).

Water had crept inside our house, making anything left behind on the floors a soggy mess. A general water mark was discovered on the buildings on the property and it revealed that water levels had risen at least two feet. School was canceled indefinitely (or so we hoped); the power was out and would stay that way for nearly two weeks. At our house, the first day home all we could do was survey the mess, pick up a few things in hopes they would dry, and crawl into bed once it got dark.

The following days were filled with cleaning and trying to restore normalcy to a home by getting the water back out the doors. I cannot really remember what we ate, but I do remember going to the army post set up nearby to get free MRE meals. They contained such items as canned ravioli, self-heating soups, pudding cups and sunflower seeds.  We would also get the occasional case of water. It was not long before “FEMA trailers” became an everyday term, as those most affected by the flooding were soon given these to live in. Also, we began to see open transport carriers loaded with totaled cars going north on the highway daily.

I also remember a cold front had moved in after the storm, making our air conditioner-less existence just a bit more comfortable. It was all very unreal, and yet, my family made it through that time with very little loss that actually hurt us or that we could not recover from in time.

One other experience I have had is on a camping trip as a teenager. We headed to central Florida in the early spring. We canoed up a river and camped in a field alongside it at night. I was ill-prepared for the trip, so accustomed to our warm southern weather. I brought a simple fleece sleeping bag, and a light “hoodie” jacket. I went to sleep that night in our tent with the other girls- and felt the deep cold in ways I never had before. I used a corner of my friend’s sleeping bag- but I was still so cold. The following night I was given an emergency car blanket and I was amazed that just one extra layer made the difference.

The news article I read talked about water coming into the makeshift homes. From my own experiences- I never once saw a bed on a frame in the homes I visited. With the water coming in and flooding the floors- where do you escape the water’s reach? My family had the luxury of being able to sweep and mop the floor and get the water out the doorway- but if you have a dirt floor- how do you accomplish this task? The experience of having water in your house is incredibly uncomfortable- it messes with your core idea of what a home should be- a safe, reliable refuge from the elements.

To be faced with this type of situation on a regular basis is beyond comprehension. I cannot imagine being at the mercy of Cuba, the Bahamas, or Mexico. What would it be like to look to the kindness of strangers, to attempt to eke out an existence with limited money, resources, and no permanent home? How would I survive if my safety was constantly threatened, if I had to always be on the lookout for aid and help from those around me, and on guard against the next snowfall? Certainly, these hardships build character and prove strength, but they also threaten the lives of the weak and chip away at their already fragile existence.

I share all these things because it is incredible how God uses our experiences, stories, and emotions to connect us to each other. I have never experienced a snowy winter, much less a snowball fight.  In fact, as I sit here the weather outside is extremely hot. I am shocked that parts of the world are in such cold extremes. I am sick to my stomach that children and whole families are fighting for their lives against the cold. Some do not have even shoes to protect themselves from the elements.

I know God uses everything to bring about his purposes. I believe that part of the reason why I was able to travel to this part of the world was so that when this bad weather would come I would be able to tell the world that I know people living here- their lives are important, God is working and we need to join with Him. Our generosity can save their lives. Do not assume that they will “make it through somehow”, as there are already reports coming from Zaatari camp potentially linking the weather with the recent deaths of children there. Our actions, and sadly, our failure to act are not without their own set of consequences. I hope you will stand with me and in a very practical way, proclaim life and hope over these people in the name of Jesus.

There are many organizations on the ground attempting to bring urgent relief to these situations.

Donating money at this site provides funds to the church involved in distribution and home visits:

To make a gift by check to a family actively giving out blankets, make it payable to “Frontiers” and mail it to: 
P.O. Box 60730
Phoenix, AZ 85082-0730

Use a separate note (rather than writing on the check memo line) to write- Winter Blanket distribution for Syrian refugees in Mafraq, Jordan). Please make sure your current mailing address is on your check or note.

Blankets are $19 each- and remember just one layer really does change things.

World Vision is attempting to bring blankets to refugees in multiple locations:

Mercy Corps is an organization partnering with the church to deliver heaters-

 Thank you for reading. I will be sharing more of my experiences from this trip soon.

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pre-departure update

I leave for Jordan in just a few days, so I wanted to post an update as to how things are going and what is coming next. Because of some incredible supporters on my GoFundMe page, I have all but raised the cost of the trip (75 short)! That is so incredible. I truly did not expect the response I received there, which is a telling statement. First, it reveals that I have an incredible base of supporters that I was not really aware of and secondly, it shows that perhaps my faith in the body of Christ, and God himself to provide needed some strengthening. Let me just say that I have been so encouraged, fortified, and relieved by these things! If you were one of those that gave, told others to give, told me you were praying for me or prayed over me- thank you so much!

Another thing that I’ve noticed is a building excitement and expectancy from many (and obviously from myself). So many people have never been to this part of the world, or they have questions, fears, concerns, or other emotions about this area. Many have expressed a desire to see pictures, stories and other things from my trip. I realize that the job I gave myself to be “the eyes and ears, hands and feet” of my supporters is a pretty substantial one. I am so excited to be a vessel of bringing this part of the world to areas unfamiliar to it, including my own  home.

As excited as I am for this trip, I am really being put out of my comfort zone. Since traveling to Uganda, I haven’t taken many trips outside of this island chain. My trip to Nicaragua was wonderful, but because I was with people that really took care of me, I didn’t really need to be on top of my travel and street smarts game. This trip is slightly different. Although I have communicated via email with most of the people going, I will see them for the first time, in Amman when we have all arrived. We are from different parts of the country, different backgrounds, beliefs, and I’m sure we all bring different ideas and expectations to the table.

I could easily spend time worrying about how things are going to work out, the “what if’s” and the rest of it; however, I am making a decision now to really focus in on the heart of this trip: service and love. Thank you for your prayers for me, I hope they continue, but please remember those we are going to interact with and and pray for them, their families, their futures  and that they would come to know the source of hope that many of us have met. Pray for traveling safety, health of our team, for the leaders, and for those already on the ground working hard. Thank you all.

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pumpkin spice pancakes

Even in South Florida, the air is changing and the temperature is dropping.  It’s amazing how much you notice a slight difference in the temperature, with low 80’s feeling wonderful and “autumn-y”. We have to take what we can get, and go up north if we really want to experience the seasons.

In honor of the season shift, I am posting this awesome pumpkin spice pancake recipe. There is something really comforting about seeing little orange pancakes cooking up on a griddle or pan as you smell the yummy aromas of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves wafting up at your smiling face.

This can be doubled or tripled depending on how many you are trying to serve. The recipe as is serves 1 or maybe 2 if you eat it with other things.  (I highly recommend eating bacon, Canadian bacon, or a slice of frittata on the side.)

You can make 1 BIG pancake or about 3 smaller pancakes that keep each other company happily in the pan.


1/3 cup whole wheat flour

½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp baking soda

Dash salt

1-2 tsp sugar (optional)

1 tbsp oatmeal (O-F or quick is fine)

½ tsp or so pumpkin spice (or if you don’t have any just add a bit of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves)

Other optional add-ins to consider:

1 tbsp or so coconut flakes, a handful of nuts, blueberries, or chocolate chips

Combine dry ingredients thoroughly in a bowl, and then add-

1 (2.50z) jar of sweet potato, pumpkin, carrot, or flavor of your choice baby food

(This is what I used-

After you empty the jar, fill it with milk (could use non-dairy milks as well), and add to the bowl. Stir well and add-

2 tsp coconut oil

Combine well and pour onto a hot griddle or skillet, lightly greased with butter or coconut oil. (Or if you plan on serving with bacon, start the bacon first, and use some of the grease to cook the pancakes.) As I said above, you can pour one big pancake, or 3 smaller ones. (I recommend the smaller ones, unless you are really good at flipping big ones…tee hee hee.)

Let them cook about 2-3 minutes each side, watching the heat because the pancakes can brown more quickly when using coconut oil. The consistency of these is “crispy” on the outside, and “moist” on the inside.

I recommend serving these with a slather of butter, a swirl of maple syrup, and some flavorful bacon. Enjoy!

Can’t you just imagine these with a chai tea? Or milky coffee? Or fresh-squeezed o.j.? Yum!

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serving refugees….

I hope that my recent invitation on GoFundMe has drawn you to this page. Thanks for watching my video, I really do need your support and the assurance that there are people cheering me on in all of this. I am so excited to go to this part of the world, to interact with the people living there, and hopefully to build bridges between the world we live in and theirs. In case you just found this and want to be part of my support crew check out: and share with those who might want to be a part of this.

Refugees (© 2013 Meg Sattler/World Vision)

Things to be praying for:

-Ongoing: Syria and its people, especially its children and the vulnerable.  The refugees in the camps in Jordan but also in other surrounding countries- Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, etc.

-Final preparations for me, including getting vaccines, work sorted out, and any bills taken care of while I’m gone

-My family- pray for my mother and the different family members concerned about me going to this part of the world

-The stability of Jordan and infrastructures in place

-The team (We are a diverse group of individuals from all over, and many of us have never met, so be praying that we can be cohesive, and serve well together)

-For those hosting our team as they prepare for our arrival- local pastors and other hospitable folks

Syrian girl. (©2012 Marwan Tahtah/World Vision)

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yerba maté latte….

I am so excited to share this hot and tasty drink with you! For so many reasons, I have always had a passion for cozy, warm, drinks. If milk can be added to make it creamy, the more foam the better!

Back in college, I was first introduced to yerba mate with friends. I really liked it for the entirely social aspect of consuming it. Regardless of the actual consumption of the drink, our experiences always involved laughing, music, and enjoyment (and etc…). Through the years, yerba mate has continued to pop up from time to time as a culinary delight worth returning to.

Seeking an alternative to coffee for a morning drink, I started scouting out drink recipes. I stumbled upon this, made sure I had the right ingredients, and not too much later….. I had a formula for a beautiful, steaming hot, milky tea drink that tastes great!

Yerba mate latte  (super fun to say!) ingredients:

1 tsp to 1 tbsp yerba mate (it depends on how big you want to go, I find adding a little extra is better so it’s not diluted)

1/2 c. milk or so

1 tsp to 1 tbsp honey or sweetener (this depends on you, stevia or others would totally work fine, I find that 1 tsp agave is plenty because agave is a bit sweeter than honey)

1 bag of peppermint tea, or 3-6 mint leaves diced up

Take your mate and add to a mesh strainer, rinse off quickly under cool water. This removes some of the grit and bite of the plant. Add your tea bag and mate to a personal tea/coffee french press (If you have one, it makes it all easy-peasy). Or you could put the mate in a tea ball or something similar*.  Pour the just-boiling water over it and let steep to desired strength 3-5 minutes or so. Check the color.

*I don’t like adding it to the mug to steep because pouring it through a strainer (if that’s all you have) is messier that way. Instead if you have a measuring cup or something similar with a spout, let it steep in there. 

As it steeps, you can go ahead and heat your milk. Add milk to a glass measuring cup and microwave for about a minute and 30 seconds. If you have a electric frother, this will really help you achieve your “latte” experience. I got one in a hot cocoa kit seriously marked down after Christmas , so if you can find one for cheap, do it!

Take your frother, whisk, or container with a lid (be so careful, if you decide to shake it- because the heat does try to escape) and add your sweetener, then foam the milk. With my frother, I make something like 4-5 inches of foam.

Then strain your tea, or if you used a press or similar device, follow through on whatever is necessary to strain it. You can leave the mint leaves in for further flavor if you decide to use them. Now, with your tea in a big mug, pour your milk over top and spoon out any foam.  Drink! Enjoy! Savor!

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psalm 1 thoughts

After reading Psalm 1, a lot of things jumped out at me from the text. I wanted to share these things with you. I hope you can take some of my ramblings and find any grain of wisdom in them. Be blessed. 

Psalm 1

1 Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

4 Not so the wicked!
    They are like chaff
    that the wind blows away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

Psalm 1 starts out by giving us three verbs to notice. Each word is active and shows action on the part of the wicked person. We see that as he “walks”, “stands” and “sits” something important is taking place. What I think this is hinting at is a progression. Sin starts out as something we find ourselves doing but eventually it becomes something we get stuck in. Therefore, we are standing and sitting without  changing, thus moving into the sin as a lifestyle and not just as something occasional.

I see the progression as this: first, we walk (lifestyle and actions) in a way that is guided by the wicked. Second, we stand in that, which shows a rooting in a sinful identity, this is “where we are” and we accept it. You could also see this as the last chance before it becomes permanent. Thirdly, leading to sitting, which means we are very comfortable and being critical, going along with popular culture is the normal. I think all of this shows that a sinful life (caused by wrong actions, etc) essentially handicaps any forward movement on the part of the person. You are stuck in a rut.

The key things we need to be aware of before this becomes our reality are: surroundings or company we keep, the direction of our life (or purpose that motivates our decisions) and the nature of the environment we find ourselves spending most of our time in.

All of this contrasts the righteous man of God. He is one that is finding happiness, purpose, and true joy in thoughtful contemplation of God and His word (laws, etc). He does this regardless of the time or day. In the same way that sinful living cements you in place, right living also encourages deep “rootedness” but in a majorly different way. Now, your roots are going down (showing great connection, deep relationship with God) and you are thriving, growing and rising up in the sweet place of His strength and protection. Just as a strong tree grows and is relied upon by many creatures so you will also become. You will produce fruit when the time comes, dependent on the cycles God has set on your life. You will be “healthy” in that your relationship with God will not be “starved” or “sick”. You will constantly be nourished by the Lord. You will stand, just as a tree does as a symbol of prosperity.

The wicked cannot even stand next to the righteous. They can expect the direct opposites of these promises. The wicked are the ones sifted out, as many times as necessary and blown away by the wind (or any trial or force as God sees fit). Because they lack worth to God and others, their presence among the righteous degrades the company (therefore they get separated and disposed of). The wicked will not “last” nor will they be given a place of honor or a “chance” (because they were given one and chose their ways). God knows their actions, this way of life (or mode of operation) is fruitless and ends in destruction.  Instead, the righteous doers are known by God and thus saved by Him. They are His.

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toasted coconut for free

photo (3)Living in the tropical paradise of the Florida Keys means that there is a glorious abundance of coconuts. For this reason, I feel foolish buying dried coconut but I will be honest, I sometimes do it. However, when time allows me and I am running low, I enjoy the pleasure of making my own toasted coconut. Here I will outline some steps that I follow to create my own. I will update this post with more detailed photos as soon as I can.

1. First find a coconut. You can buy them at most grocery stores without a husk, but like I said, I get mine from trees near my house. The coconut husk should be somewhere between brown and green with liquid in the middle (you can hear it when you shake it).
You can look at this site for more tips:

After selecting your coconut (or coconuts), you must get to the center shell covered by layers of soft husk- similar to peeling corn. I have finally discovered (thanks to a friend of the family who weaves palm fronds) the best way to open a coconut. First, you must get two shovels- large ones like you would dig a ditch with. Then you must be really careful, seriously! Wear shoes or be really mindful of your feet! With the coconut on the ground you stab the end of the shovel into the husk. You want the shovel to hit in the middle somewhere, going with the natural longitudinal lines of the coconut. Then, getting someone else to help, stab the other shovel point into the coconut so that both shovels are back to back and deep in as best you can manage. Then each person must push the shovels (or one person using both arms and strong muscles) towards each other. This process is so much easier and surprisingly safer than any other method I have tried. I do not mess with machetes, and I have learned my lesson with hammers. I have earned the bruises and the cuts. This method removes a majority of the husk from one side and it can be repeated on the other sides until the inner coconut is revealed. You can just grab it out and peel the remaining husk strings from the (1)

2. The next step I like to do is to find the eyes of the coconut on one of the ends (there should be three). Using a small paring knife or pointed utensil poke at the eyes, one or more will have a thin layer that should peel away easily as you poke it. You should then see the white of the coconut meat. I then use a corkscrew bottle opener to burrow into the meat and thus revealing a clear passageway into the coconut. Having a cup nearby, I drain the coconut water and drink it or use it for smoothies!

3. This step could use improving, but right now it works for us. I put the drained coconut into a plastic grocery bag, tie it once and throw the bag down onto a hard surface. Be careful where you do this- I do it outside on my concrete porch. The coconut will probably bounce and it may not break right away. Finding the right amount of force and speed all affects how it breaks and how many times you need to do it. Once the majority of it has broken, I take it inside and rinse the pieces and drain them with a colander.

4. Using a blunt knife (or thin spoon or other utensil) I start the process of separating the coconut meat from the shell. I peel it away as it does so naturally- with a thin layer of dark brown skin on the meat. This is edible and in my opinion does not take away from the flavor or experience of the coconut (although it is interesting that hardly any coconut products out there have any evidence of this). This is a tedious process at times as the meat does not always separate easily from the shell. I wedge the tool in between the two layers until the meat comes away (usually in one piece) from the shell. Take your time to avoid hurting yourself.

Separated coconut chunks

5. Once you have the meat, you can grate it with a cheese grater- you pick the level of fineness, or you can throw the pieces into a food processor. My food processor is small and cannot handle the bulky pieces, so I just take the time and grate it fine (which is generally the end product I like better anyway).

6. With your grated coconut, you can then use this raw coconut in any recipe that calls for it, or you can toast it***. I toast mine, because it tends to last longer and be more versatile for me. For this, I heat the oven to 350 degrees. I get a baking sheet and spread the shreds out on it. I then bake it for 10-15 minutes stirring it here and there so it evenly toasts. Then I cool it, and store it in a bag or reusable container. The end product is cheap (for me- free) and wonderful! It is best to use your coconut promptly or store in a freezer to prolong the shelf life.

***The toasted coconut is the better option if you are looking to have coconut flakes around. Unless you have a food dehydrator (or you are planning on using the coconut immediately), lightly toasting the coconut is the only way I have found to preserve all that coconut you worked so hard to get! Also, keep the flakes away from any moisture in a cool, dark place.

photo (2)

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