Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, Off to the Gym I Go!

I went to the gym for the first time today! Well, not in my life but at least in 20+ years. Being a college student and then working on a missionary salary meant I couldn't resign myself to paying $50 for a gym membership when I could walk for free on the loop around campus. This afternoon, though, when a friend invited me to come along to their gym, I decided to go. One of my very first decisions when I came to Lebanon was to engage in as many experiences as I could. Whether it was something new or familiar, I wanted to be involved so I could slip into the natural rhythm of life as quickly as possible.

After spending a few minutes on the treadmill, I decided to check out the aerobics class. I headed down the stairs and into a large room filled with mirrors and fun exercise equipment like mats, hand weights, and huge bouncy balls. I looked around and saw several women with their mats and hand weights so I grabbed my own and then waited. And waited. I must have waited 10 minutes. Meanwhile the women chatted away amongst themselves, each seemed to have come with a friend, while I was there by myself. I felt somewhat awkward but reminded myself to embrace the awkwardness as part of the experience.

When the instructor arrived, they turned on the music and away we went. For the next hour I stretched, ran in place, flung my arms about, attempted pushups, and generally moved every single muscle group til it was ready to quit. The instructor would occasionally call out to me to keep my chin up and smile--I must have looked like I was not having a good time! When it was over I went right over to the membership desk and signed up for a month of aerobics classes.

I'd been wondering and somewhat worrying about how I was going to exercise when the bad weather came. I was so thankful tonight to see how God worked it out, even to having a friend who comes regularly to the gym and is graciously kind enough to come on the days and at the times that the class happens. It's a beautiful reminder yet again how God takes care of the small things which encourages me to know that He will take care of the important things too.

Monday, November 28, 2016


It was a simple clear package. He handed it to me apologetically, as it had been sitting in his room for several weeks, somehow he'd kept forgetting to give it to me. I wasn't expecting a gift, so it was a kind surprise, but as he handed me the gift and I thanked him for it, I looked down to see what was in my hand. I was startled. It was a comb.

When I first came to Lebanon, I arrived with 2 large suitcases and a carry-on, each packed to the limit. Returning in the summer, I picked up several items that were hard to find in Beirut, or were more expensive. One day, when I was laboriously trying to make some sense out of my hair that insisted on grabbing onto the humidity in the air and looking like a rat's nest, I thought how wonderful it would be to have a comb. Yes, it seemed like a small thing but living at the top of the hill meant that even a trip to find a comb became an expedition in itself.

I went to town with friends a couple of times and didn't manage to find a good comb. I pushed the thought to the back of my mind and resigned myself to waiting til I had a solid afternoon to dedicate to shopping for several items I needed. Then my friend handed me a comb.

This wasn't just any comb, either. The package said it was a spinning tooth comb patented to gently turn and roll out the tangles easily without damaging my hair and was ideal for all hair types. My hair can get very tangled as I have been blessed with the Islander genes in that regards. I smiled inside as I realized that my Heavenly Father, Who knew I'd been looking for a comb, had provided one at just the right time.

I've been asking God to answer several prayer requests in my life. Though I know logically that He will answer them in His perfect timing, I tend to forget reality and get caught up in the thought that He isn't capable and I have to do it all by myself. This tends to make me even more stressed out, of course. Yet, as He reminded me once again today, God knows what I need and He will provide it in a way that will let me know without a doubt that the answer has come from Him. It may be something as simple as a comb or as complex as my future but regardless, if I trust and wait in faith, He will honour the request and answer it at the right time.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Taouk Without the Taouk Please

I had to laugh today when I looked up the meaning of taouk on Google. It is a chicken shish kebab which is typical of the Middle East. Why did I laugh? Because I ordered a taouk sandwich for lunch and was surprised to find it came with chicken inside. Once again, lost in translation.

I'm very excited that, though slowly, I'm learning words here and there in Arabic. When a friend got up to leave the table at lunch yesterday, he waved at us and said Bel ezen and I nearly jumped out of my chair with excitement. I understood what he said! Bel ezen means excuse me, or pardon me, and can be used when you accidentally bump into someone with your shopping cart in the store, or in any number of situations.

Learning a language opens up a whole new horizon, I'm learning. Though at first I'll admit it was somewhat discouraging, as I'd imagined that every time I said Marhaba, angels would sing and all the Lebanese would cheer, now the excitement is beginning to grow. Sure, some of my friends are not impressed with my baby steps in language learning, but I've found that there are many more who are supportive and encouraging. Of course it helps that I have a really great Arabic teacher.

Ebtissam, the women's dean, decided two months ago to offer an hour of language learning once a week to those who were interested. In the middle of her very busy schedule, as she is also assistant librarian, she managed to type up study sheets with both English transliteration and Arabic and to have a lesson plan for each time we met. We started with the very basics. How are you? I'm fine, thanks. We repeated, we practiced, and eventually we progressed to vocabulary and short sentences of greeting. Now, when I look at my vocabulary, I'm amazed at how much we've learned!

It's small victories, that I am learning. On Wednesday at the Independence Day luncheon, I overhead someone use the word akel and I was so pleased that I knew they were talking about the food. Previously, I had no idea what that word meant but now that I did, I could build and expand my contextual understanding.

When I stepped to the counter to order my sandwich this afternoon, the young lady said kil chee? and I nodded. Yes, I wanted all the fixings on my sandwich. I thought it was somewhat pricey to pay $3 for a french fries and coleslaw sandwich but I was really hungry. I watched them rolling up the sandwiches behind the counter but didn't pay close attention to the fact that each one had chunks of meat stuffed in. I was too busy concentrating on listening for my number to be called.

Finally I heard something something ashrah and I knew it was my number. I claimed my sandwich and peeled back the paper, eager to quiet my grumbling stomach. Then I saw the huge chunk of something sitting on top that most definitely was not a mushy french fry. Disappointed, I told the manager I wanted it without meat. He very kindly fixed me a new sandwich which I happily took and enjoyed. All that time, I was convinced that they had made a mistake. After all, the order board said that a taouk sandwich had french fries, pickles, coleslaw, and garlic. Nothing else.

Then I came home and googled taouk. I have a feeling this isn't going to be my last embarrassing moment when I attempt to speak the language or imagine that I understand everything completely. But it makes for a good laugh and I'm excited that as I continue to learn simple words, slowly I will learn to put them together and hopefully one day I will feel that I've unlocked the key to not only understanding a language but to hearts.