Sunday, March 27, 2011

Living on the Edge

Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the last few months, you know that the Middle East has been quite volatile lately.  Even more so than usual.  Revolts and all out revolutions have occurred in Yemen, Egypt, Libya, and now Syria is heating up. 

We live close to Syria.  Actually really close.  I choose not to think about that fact a lot, because it is quite unnerving.  The base is pretty clear about where we can and cannot travel.  They are called "red zones".  There are small areas in Adana that are off limits.  The entire Eastern side of Turkey is a no-go.  And of course Syria.  If the situation deteriorates enough there, it has the potential to affect us at Incirlik.  It would have to be pretty major and spill into Turkey, but it could, in theory, happen.  Base evacuations are not unheard of here.  They have happened before.  All of our paperwork for an evacuation had to be filed pretty soon after we arrived.  So we are prepared in that unlikely event.

 We have a trip planned to see Antioch and have Good Friday worship at St. Peter's Grotto.  This was where the early believers were first called "Christians" and where Peter gave his first sermon.
It is located about 15 minutes from the Syrian border.  The location used to be completely off-limits, but now tour groups are allowed, just no individual travel.  We are really looking forward to this unique worship experience, but are mindful that it could be called off at a moments notice.

 I guess this is all part of life in this part of the world.  You can't be scared about things that may or may not happen, and I truly feel very safe on this base.  You just have to be prepared.  And we are.  That being said, continue to pray for peace in the Middle East.  I know I will.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


You live 30 minutes from the Apostle Paul's hometown.  THE APOSTLE PAUL.  One would think it wouldn't take you 8 months to get around to going there.  But alas, this is our story.  So, I was bound and determined to go with my mom.  Unfortunately, Ryan is quite busy at work and couldn't go with us.  Since I don't drive off-base, Wendi volunteered to be our driver.  She recently had a friend from the States, Veronica, move in with her as a full-time nanny.  Veronica also wanted to see Tarsus.  So it worked out perfectly.

Tarsus was a breath of fresh air.  It was unlike what I was expecting based on my other travels within this country.  Once we got into the heart of the old part of the city, it felt very European.  Things just seemed to move slower there.  The atmosphere was relaxed and peaceful.  The weather was perfection.  We all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

The most interesting thing I learned about Tarsus is that they have only recently discovered many of the historical places buried beneath this city.  Cleopatra met Marc Antony here.  An ancient Roman road was just excavated in the 1970's.  Archeologists have only dug up the road partially, as the rest would involve tearing up the heart of the city.   The mind boggles to think of the history there waiting to be discovered.

The highlight of the trip was seeing St. Paul's well.  This old well dates back from the time of Christ, and is very likely the place where Paul and his family drew their water. Amazing.  On our drive to and from Tarsus, I looked at the rolling hills and farmlands we passed and could easily imagine Paul walking there.  He DID walk there.  And we get to live here for a short time.  I know sometimes I complain about life here in Turkey-and rightfully so.  But I always go back to the fact that I am living in the "cradle" of Christianity.  This is where my faith was born.  The underground churches and cave chapels where people hid just to help spread my faith.  Paul and Timothy called Turkey home.  So did Peter and John and even Mary the Mother of Jesus.

.....and Sarah Stebbins.

It never ceases to amaze me.

The Roman Road.  Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, and St. Paul probably walked right behind us!

Charming street in Tarsus

St. Paul's Well

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Now that my mom has returned home, life here in Turkey is getting back to normal.  We are back into our usual routines and activities.  One struggle that I have here is the tendency to do too much.  We live in a small little town and there seem to always be more needs than people to fill them.  I feel a twinge of guilt at church when volunteers are needed for this or that and I don't offer my help.  I have always been a "yes" person, and learning to sometimes say "no" is a hard lesson for me.

Recently, I heard Beth Moore give a quote that really spoke to me.  It went something like this-"a need does not constitute a call".  Yes, there are areas that I am definitely called to work in right now.  The church nursery that W attends and the babysitting co-op that gives me much needed mornings off are two places that I know I am needed and feel called to be there.  But when I try to attend every playgroup, make meals for every sick person, and volunteer for every need that arises at the chapel, I put myself in a position where I do none of it well.  I am stressed, tense, and unhappy. 

So, I am learning to pray about areas that I am called to serve, and how to to put the rest of it to the side.  Probably a lesson I should have learned long ago, but better late than never.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Reflections on My Trip

Sarah asked me to write a post before I returned to Alabama.  I don't have her gift for writing, but I will try to put my feelings into words.

Sarah has shared the ups and downs of the past year on this blog.  As a child she never liked change of any kind.  She loved her ''comfort zone".  Knowing her as I do, I wondered how she would react to this move.  Although we talk frequently and ""Skype" often, I had to see for myself how things are in Turkey.  I guess this is a "Mom" thing.  Having spent two weeks here, I am happy to report that life is good and my heart is at peace.

I really like this base.  It reminds me of how life was when I was a little girl.  People are out walking, and stopping to visit with neighbors.  Moms meet at one of the many parks and share time together as their children play. I love hearing the knocks at our door as friends drop in to visit.  There is a feeling of safety and security.  I am grateful that Sarah and Ryan have this close-knit community where people truly care for one another.

The Turkish people I have come in contact with have been so friendly and helpful.  They absolutely love William!  When we were in Cappodocia, they circled around him taking pictures.  Sarah says this is because they are not used to seeing blue-eyed children, but as his grandmother I know it is because he is the cutest child they have ever seen!  When we got lost in Tarsus, Wendi (who was driving) approached a group of men to ask for directions, and one got on his motorcycle and led us to where we wanted to go.  Again, we felt safe in doing this. I have met people who have touched my heart with their acceptance of me and their affection for my daughter.

I will never forget the sights of our travels.  As I write this, my eyes are filling with tears as I think of the caves where the early Christians hid from the Romans.  At one point we found ourselves in a room underground where they worshiped.  As I looked around I noticed that it was carved in the shape of a cross.  I felt Jesus there.  I saw His picture in the cave churches where ancient monks gathered.  The people did not know how to read, so pictures of the life of Christ were painted on the walls.  As I attended church for the first time here on base, I was acutely aware that Christians in this part of the world are in the minority.  I felt Jesus there.  He was also in Tarsus as I looked at the Roman Road where Paul had walked so many years ago.  I believe my faith has deepened as a result of this visit- I think Sarah's has too.  I see her growing and doing things she never thought she could do. I am proud of her.  I never thought I would say this, but I'm glad she had this opportunity.

Now it is time to go home.  It hurts when I think of leaving my children, but I miss home.  I miss my husband, my dog, my church, and my children at school.  I miss my country.  There are many wonderful things in Turkey, but there is also a profound culture shock. Back home in Alabama, as I sit on my porch overlooking the woods, I will remember my family and friends at Incirlik, and be thankful for their sacrifice and service to our country.

Oh, one more thing.... I didn't say much about William in this blog because I tend to go on and on.  Just ask me, and I will be glad to show you pictures!!!!


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Cappadocia in Pictures

I am able to access Blogger for the moment, so here are some pics from Cappadocia.  Enjoy!

Mom negotiating the tunnels of the underground city

Ryan and W in the underground city.  Clearly, the early Christians were not tall people.

Overlooking the caves of Cappadocia


Our cave hotel at night.  Our room was at the very top-quite the climb.

Having fun wherever he goes.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Yet Another Reason I Love Turkey. (Note the Sarcasm)

Apparently this country has decided to ban blogspot.  This spells trouble for the blog you are reading.  Last night, it wasn't working-this morning, it is OK. Who knows.  I think I can find a way around this and keep posting even if the ban is a permanent.  I hope so.  I think keeping up with this blog is an important way to keep a record of our time here.  It is also helpful for our loved ones at home to hear about our journey in a little more detail than a facebook status update can provide.

So, on we go...I think. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Alabama in Adana: Our Cappadocian Adventure!

One of the "must do's" for folks stationed in Turkey is to visit the Cappadocia region of this country.  For whatever reason, Ryan and I have yet to go.  It seemed like my Mom's visit was the perfect excuse for us to check this off of our "to do" list.  We booked an overnight trip through the base's tourism office.  The package included transportation, a tour guide, a hotel, and all of our museum tickets. 

Cappadocia has a very rich history-both geologically and culturally.  It is mentioned in the Bible numerous times.  To read more about the region click here

I have to brag on my Mom a little.  We have stretched her WAY out of her comfort zone.  She has been such a gamer and so adventurous.  She has tried new, strange foods with enthusiasm.  Culture shock is no joke here and she has been such a trooper.  She is definitely making the most of her experience here.

Some Cappadocia Highlights:

The Underground City
These intricate caves were used by the early Christians in the area when they faced persecution from the Romans.  There were areas for living, cooking, worship, and community meetings.  It was humbling to see the lengths these people went to just to worship-months at a time living without sunlight in a cold damp cave.  And we think we have it tough sometimes.

Artisan Demonstrations
We got to observe the artists in the area as they created one-of-a-kind rugs and pottery.  One man takes locally mined onyx and creates various beautiful pieces of art.

Cave Churches and Monastaries
People used to live in the caves of this region-some still do.  The early Christians had many churches in the caves-and we were blessed to see many examples.  The chapels were painted with beautiful frescos-some of which still exist.  Again, we were humbled to think about the lengths that our ancestors int he faith went to just to worship.

A Cave Hotel
Yes, we stayed in an actual hotel carved out of a cave.  Our room had rock walls and ceilings-but was extremely comfortable and cozy.  What an unforgettable experience.

....Stay tuned for pictures from this adventure!!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Alabama in Adana:Day Four and Five (Rain, Rain Go Away)

Apparently, it does rain in Turkey.  And it hasn't stopped for 3 days.  This dramatically reduces our choice of activities in a place with limited choices to begin with.  We have spent much time inside, and Mom has enjoyed spending quality time with William.  They build with legos, play choo choo trains, and sing songs together.  We went to church last night and will be going to dinner in downtown Adana this evening with a friend here. 

And, without further ado, today's installmant of  "Differences between Alabama and Turkey" list:

1.  No weather reports.  No doppler radar.  No Rich Thomas. Our weather report consists ofwaking up, sticking your toe out the door, and dressing accordingly.
2.  Toilets.  The flusher is much different.  And off base, we here that the toilets are "squat only".  Enough said.
3.  Sarah's housekeeper charges 25.00 for 3.5 hours work. WOW!
4.  Animal crackers from Germany are delicious.
5.  Morning shows (Today, Fox and Friends, etc.) come on live at around 2:00 in the afternoon.

Below are a few pictures of our brief, non-rained out time at a park:

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Alabama in Adana: Day Two and Three (Laying Low on Base)

After the initial dive into Turkish culture at Sunday Market, we have stayed close to home for the last couple of days.  Jet lag hit Mom like a ton of bricks yesterday, so she spent most of the day trying to convince her body that she should be awake rather than sleeping.  We managed to get out for a drive around the base and a trip to the BX/Mail Room yesterday.  Today, we went to a bible study at the chapel and to a playdate with some of William's buddies.  The day ended with William showing his "Ge" one of his favorite parks here. 

Today's list of "Things You Don't See In Alabama" (from Mom)
1.  A really large variety of good Greek yogurt.
2.  Arriving home from errands in time to hear the noon Muslim call to prayer.
3.  The large amount of feral cats
4.  The security of living on a military installation-never having to feel the need to lock your

Monday, March 7, 2011

Alabama in Adana: Day One (To Market, to Market)

On my Mom's first day here, she dove right into Middle Eastern culture with a trip to the Sunday Market.  I needed to go for some veggies and so we all made the trip. 

To quote her "it was exactly as I had pictured it would be".  She remarked on how strange a feeling it is to be in the vast minority in a place, since all her life she has been in the majority.  We stand out for sure and look totally different from the other locals shopping at Sunday Market.  She also noticed what a problem litter was in Adana and that the condition of the buildings looked like "a bombed out Baghdad" (an exact quote).  I also neglected to mention to her that nearly everyone in Turkey smokes-and that the scent of cigarettes is everywhere.

On to the positives (there were many).  The produce is unbelievable.  The selection and quality is beyond compare.  Kiwi fruits as big as oranges.  Oranges as big as grapefruits.  Mom was quite impressed with the piles of eggs for sale-probably fresh from the chicken.  She also liked the various fresh spices for sale and the aroma that temporarily covered the cigarette smoke.

We had a great time.  Mom is starting a "Things You Don't See In Alabama" list.  Today's entries:
1.  A mosque with 6 minarettes
2.  A horse-drawn cart down a city street.
3.  Drivers running red lights simply because they are in no mood to stop
4.  The quantity and variety of fruit trees on base (orange, lime, etc.)
5.  A Turkish Barbie doll dressed in a belly-dancers costume holding an olive.

3 Turkey.
Fresh Spices

Mom was quite impressed with the piles and piles of eggs.
Can you spot the Alabama natives?  We blend in nicely, don't we ??

Saturday, March 5, 2011

She's Here!!

My mom arrived safe and sound (a little tired) this evening.  She will update everyone on the trip over once she is rested.  Thanks for the prayers!!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Q and A with a 2 Year Old

1.  Who is your friend?
     "Lijah" (no shock there)

2.  Who do you love?
     "Lijah and Thomas" (as in train)

3.  What do you watch on TV?
     "Bob Buis" (Bob the Builder)

4.  What is your favorite song?
     "Cars" (as in "Life is a Highway" which was featured in the movie Cars)

5.  What do you like to do with Daddy?
     "Pay Hide Dad Go" (play hide and seek, which he calls "hide Dad go")

6.  What do you like to eat?
     "Chit chen and ice keem" (chicken and ice cream)

7.  Who do you live with?
     "Thomas" (again, as in the train)

8.  Where do go in the car?
     "Golf Course" (he is his father's son!)