Saturday, December 31, 2011


As I sit here on the last day of 2011, I am so thankful for many things.  This year continued to see us survive (and even thrive) in a hard place to live.  We have been blessed with safety, friendship, good health, and travel.  We have seen and experienced things that I never in a million years thought I would see and do.  We were able to travel home and reconnect with family and friends.

It has been a good year.

2012 will be interesting for us.  It will involve us saying goodbye to the community here at Incirlik and starting over again somewhere new.  There will be upheaval, change, and transition.  There will be tears, anxiety, and stress.  All of this I know for sure.  But I have learned that I grow the most through these times.  I lean on the Lord. I depend on Him more. 

There will also be new opportunities.  Ryan will have a new job.  We will have a new home and new friends and a new church.  We will have new places to see and serve and belong.  And with any luck, we will be doing all of these new things back on American soil. 

We are ready for the New Year and all it holds for us.  Happy 2012 cyber-friends!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


As you gathered form my earlier post, I just returned from a trip to Greece.  The chapel subsidized about 90% of the cost, so this was truly an amazing opportunity.  I didn't know what to expect because, like Turkey, Greece is a place I never really thought about.  It isn't that I have a bad opinion of it, I just didn't have an opinion at all.  Below are some highlights of the trip:
  • Seeing the ruins of Philippi and Corinth were amazing.  I understand what people who have been to the Holy Land mean when they say "the Bible has been brought to life." I will read Paul's letters with a new perspective now, for sure.
  • We traveled with some teenage boys.  I got a glimpse into my life in about 12 years. Wow.  I am so not ready yet.
  • Greece is a stunningly gorgeous country.  I wasn't expecting that.  It is probably the most naturally beautiful place I have seen to date.
  • Like Turkey, the Greek people are friendly and welcoming.  These two countries have so much in common.  I will say , however, that Greece is cleaner and slightly more Western than Turkey.  I think much of this has to do with the fact that Greece is a 97% Christian nation (Greek Orthodox).  I just felt I had more in common with the Greeks than I do with the Turks.  But, again, these two places are so very similar.
  • I am glad I got to travel with other Christians that I wouldn't have gotten to know otherwise.  There are 3 Protestant services on base-traditional, contemporary, and gospel.  Since we go to the contemporary service, those are the folks we know.  The Greek group was a wonderful blend of the 3-and it made the experience that much more meaningful.
  • We only spent about 12 hours in Athens.  I wish I could have seen more there.  But what I did see was so cool.  The Acropolis is amazing.
If you are interested, click here to view a very brief photo album I posted on facebook.

I think I am done traveling for awhile.  I am worn out.  But December was an eventful month with both Italy and Greece checked off the ole "to-do" list.  Who knows what's next?!

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Very Turkey Christmas

Making a birthday cake for Baby Jesus!

The boys with the finished product.

The neighborhood girls on Christmas Eve.  These ladies (and their hubbies) make being away from family during the holidays bearable.  They are truly family!

The guys

Christmas Eve 2011

Christmas morning chaos!!

Merry Christmas 2011 from the Stebbins!!
Our holiday in pictures:

Friday, December 23, 2011

My Big Fat Greek Trip

I couldn't resist :).

The whole group at Philippi
I just returned from a 5 day Chapel sponsored trip to tour Greece from a biblical perspective.  We saw so much more than that though.  Ruins, ancient cities, monasteries, museums.  Long, long days jam packed full of activities.  Exhausting to be sure-but such a cool thing to experience with such an awesome group.  No one on this trip was a problem or was anything but fantastic-which I think is a rarity when you travel with a big group.  I will get into more details after the Christmas rush is behind us, but it was an unforgettable trip that made parts of the Bible come to life.  I am very grateful for the opportunity.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

School Days

One of the (many) things that I worried about when we were told we would be living in Turkey for 2 years was preschool.  That might not be tops on everyone's list of things to think about in a move, but you see, I am a huge fan of preschool.  Having taught it for many years, I couldn't wait for my son to experience early learning and socialization in a fun, friendly, and creative environment.  In the States, I knew I would have many options wherever we lived, and knowing what I know, could choose the right one for us.  But Turkey was a game-changer (understatement of the year).  I wasn't sure if there was a preschool program here, and if I even wanted W to participate.

We registered him for the CDC preschool program in August, knowing we could pull out should it turn out to not be for us.  I have been very, very pleased.  They do the best they can with what they have to work with.  I have not seen any developmentally inappropriate activities for my 3 year old being introduced, and he is allowed the freedom and creativity that I would promote in my own classroom.

This week was "dress up" week at school.  Tuesday was pajama day and Thursday was "crazy hair" day.  What fun!!  W loved it.  On Thursday, I got to go to the classroom to decorate a gingerbread cookie with him.  He was THRILLED that I was there and was excited to show me his school.  He kept telling all his buddies "this is my friend Sarah" as he showed me around :).  I noticed him taking pride in his learning-which was very cool to see indeed.
With Daddy at school on PJ day.  Thanks to Nana for the awesome Christmas pj's!!

Crazy hair!!

With his buddy Silas

Busy school boy!

Fun, fun!!

Decorating a cookie

Eating the gingerbread boy!!

Such fun.  Such memories.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ryan's Rome

Sarah and I returned from an amazing trip to Rome recently.    It was a wonderful time to get away for a while, just the two of us walking in a city rich with history, ancient sites, and amazing food.  We’ve had some incredible opportunities to travel while living in Turkey both locally and throughout Europe.  While in Rome, we visited the Coliseum and spent some time walking around and reading the stories behind this amazing structure.  Of all the history behind the Coliseum, one part stood out from the others… the story of the martyrs.  Interestingly, we visited Vatican City the day before and that was a totally different and wonderful spiritual experience.  Trust me, I didn’t wake up that morning, board the bus and expect to be awed spiritually.  I don’t think we ever do, God shows up when we least expect him to, and this was no different.  I believe it was a combination of seeing the cross in the Coliseum and scripture flooding my mind while standing there in that ancient place that caused me to be so moved.

I  felt an amazing sense of awe and humility regarding what the early believers, my brothers and sisters in Christ, had to endure to be called a Christ follower.  Don’t get me wrong, we all have our “crosses to bear” in life, but very few (if any) of us risk dying on them as well.  I always knew Nero was a crazy dude, but reading about it and walking where he did, put it in amazing context.   I could see thousands of Christians being martyred in the Coliseum.  I felt the pain, tears and sheer horror of seeing 3,000 believers hung from crosses for miles and miles on the road entering Rome.  Of all the amazing sites in Rome (and there are many), I sat at this one the longest.  Around the 16th or 17th century a cross was erected in the Coliseum honoring those who were martyred for their faith and soon after it became a sacred place.  The Pope visits the Coliseum  every Good Friday with the intent of honoring those who died.  I wonder what he’s thinking as he touches that cross?  I wonder if I would have the faith to endure as the Romans believers did?  One of my favorite passages is Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  Paul wrote this to the church in Philippi, like most of his letters he wrote to encourage others, to encourage those to endure through pain and suffering knowing a greater reward await them.   I am encouraged to carry on, to endure, to persevere, to be there for others when needed …I believe that’s what Paul wanted, I believe that’s what Christ calls us to do.

Rome was many things and we’ll never forget it.  I expected to see amazing sites--and we did; I expected to have great food--and we did…more importantly, I did not expect to be moved spiritually-- but God did.
Lastly, Sarah already mentioned it, but it needs to be said again, we could have not gone on this trip if it weren’t for some amazing friends…thanks again.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Roman Recap

A few weeks ago, my friend Sarah inspired me.  She and her hubby had planned 2 trips over the holidays-to England and then Rome.  It got me thinking about how our time here is waning and there is still so much to see around us.  The Turkish discount airline flies to Rome cheaply, and neither Ryan or I had been.  So we booked our tickets.

A few highlights:
  • Vatican City exceeded my expectations as well as disappointed me.  The Sistine Chapel wasn't the impressive sight I was hoping for-but in all fairness, I am not an art person.  However, St. Peter's Basilica overwhelmed me.  It;s sheer size, history, and purpose were amazing.  It was definitely the major highlight of out trip.
  • I think I could eat Caprese Salad every meal for the rest of my life.  Delicious.  As was the other food we ate.
  • On the subject of food, Italians have a MAJOR thing for Nutella.  It was everywhere.  Even at McDonalds-no exaggeration.
  • It is so hard to believe how much history there is in Rome and how well it is preserved.  The Pantheon was around in ancient times and it is still standing and looks very much like it did then.  It makes me realize yet again that things in America that we view as old are really very much the opposite.
  • Rome has a very New York City feel about it-fast paced, vibrant, and slightly pushy.  
  • We walked no less than 10 miles in 3 days.  My friend Casey told me I couldn't wear tennis shoes, and like a fool, I didn't pack them.  My feet ached something fierce!! 

It was an unforgettable trip that made me appreciate again the value of living where we do.

Ciao for now!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Winter Snow

Have you heard this awesome song?  It can be found on Chris Tomlin's Christmas CD and is sung by an incredible artist named Audrey Assad.  I read a little about her-she became a Catholic in 2007 and since then, her lyrics focus on singing to God and not about God.  I love that idea.  Listen to this and be blessed!

Toddler Talk

Me: W, I got you a brand new kind of snack.  Do you want to see it?
(show him a nutri-grain box with yogurt bars inside)
W: (mouth hanging open) Well, bust my boilers Mommy.  Thomas say that too.

Ah, 3 year olds.  Never a dull moment around here!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Rome in Pictures

The Turkish internet speed is giving me fits tonight.  Downloading pictures to Blogger is taking an eternity.  Click here to view my facebook photo album of our Roman holiday.  I will write more about it later, but we had a fabulous time.  "The Eternal City" did not disappoint!