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Spiritual Reflection on 2016…

Happy New Years!
This weekend, I (Janna) was asked to speak at our church during the last service of the year.  I prepared a devotional message, and thought I’d also love to share it with you – all of our friends and family – by video.  It’s a spiritual reflection on 2016, and I hope you don’t mind me sharing 🙂  (I know the spiritual message isn’t for everyone, so feel free to skip if you want!)  In it, I just talk about five questions to ask ourselves as we look back at the past year, to look at what foundation has been laid as we walk into 2017…I’ve made a downloadable reflection guide you can print out and make notes on if you want:  Reflecting on 2016 – The Rous House Handout

The first question I asked was:  What major life CHANGE or event happened in your life this year?  (In the video illustration, I used a jar of loose change to represent “change” 🙂  Maybe you had a new baby?  Maybe you started a new job or got a promotion.  Maybe you started, or ended, a relationship.  Maybe you lost someone close to you this year.  What happened?  Maybe it was something painful, maybe something wonderful.  This change may be something that God is using or will use to help set a new direction for your life in 2017… It may be a stepping stone towards the path he wants to lead you on.

The second question I asked was:  What did you LEARN this year?    (Represented by 6 little lights.)  What did you learn this year, things that have changed the way you think or approach life?  Did you go on a training course?  Were you attending school?  Learning a new language?  Did you read a fascinating book?  God brings learning experiences into our lives to prepare us, to help us grow.  By the things you’ve learned, is he preparing you for future opportunities to minister or serve?  Take a moment a reflect – what did you learn this year, and how might that be used in 2017?

The third question I asked was:  What TRIALS and difficulties did you face in 2016?  (I’ve used a broken glass to represent trials.)  Sometimes, pieces of our lives get smashed.  We face really big difficulties.  What did you go through this year? Were you accused of something you didn’t do, yet were punished for it?  Did you lose a home, a family member?  Have you struggled in your marriage, or with your children?  In the Bible, it says “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,” …What????  Most trials are not joyful.  And yet, the Bible also says that God brings beauty from ashes.  In Isaiah 61, it says: “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted… to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes…”  Maybe God is using the trials in your life to prepare you to comfort, encourage, and have mercy on others who are experiencing something similar.  The trials of 2016 are also part of the foundation of your life in 2017…

The fourth question I asked was:  What have you learned about GOD’s CHARACTER this year?  At our church, we spent weeks and weeks studying 1 Samuel this year.  1 Samuel 3:10 says:  “Speak, for your servant is listening.”   Did you hear God speak this year?  Did you listen to him this year?  What has God taught you about Himself this year – Who He is and how He works?

The fifth question I asked was:  Who are the PEOPLE that God has brought into your life this year?  I’ve used a jar of coffee beans (because I like to drink coffee with friends) to represent relationship, friendship, visiting homes, listening, and talking.  God brought certain people across your path in 2016. Who did he want you to develop a relationship with?  Why?  Maybe you met at work, or at church?  Maybe you met at university, school, college?  Maybe someone contacted you on Facebook that you haven’t seen in a long time.  How does God want to use you in those people’s lives?

We often want our new year to start off like an empty bowl, waiting to be filled with new experiences, but instead it actually starts off half-full of all the “stuff” we bring into it from the year before.

Watch the video to see how an “empty bowl” versus a “half-full” bowl compare when it comes to God overflowing your life with Himself in 2017!

Wishing you blessings in 2016,
Janna and Steve

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Sam and Amy’s Budget Tours: Jordan’s Highlights

I love it when God places friends in your life that, despite distance and time, persist.  Steve and Sam met at a church house group in Uganda, back in 2008.  Every year or so, it seems that a wedding, a holiday, or a random flight path conspires to bring the guys together again.  Since 2008, they’ve both been married – Steve to me, Sam to Amy.  And Sam and Amy’s trip to Jordan last week was the first time that we’ve all been able to hang out and holiday together – and what a holiday it was!!  All the sites that Steve and I had visited over the last year and a half got squeezed into a single week.  It was pretty full-on, and a total blast.  Here’s the recap…

Day 1:  Airport welcome, Jerash, Hashem’s restaurant

  • Jerash: is only about a 45 minute drive from where we live, and it’s one of the most complete preserved Roman cities in the Middle East. Our tour guide accompanied us through the Oval marketplace, down the old Roman road where you can still see chariot wheel tracks in the old paving stones, into the Temple of Artemis, and to the center of the old theatre where your voice echoes in the amazing acoustics still preserved today.  We finished off with a tangy lemon and mint juice and headed back home.
  • Hashem’s: The final stop of the day was Hashem’s restaurant – a Jordanian restaurant located in an alleyway and famous because “the King ate there once”.  The service is fast, the food is cheap, the surroundings are a little dirty, and the atmosphere is…perfect.  It’s at the very center of Amman, and the place to go to feel the “vibe” of the city and its people.  A stroll past the enormous Roman amphitheatre and a quick dessert of “knaffe” sent us all home stuffed and happy.

Day 2:  Madaba, the Baptism Site, Mt. Nebo

  • The Madaba Map: Morning of the second day, we headed to Madaba, where the oldest mosaic map of the holy land is preserved on the floor of a church.  It was only re-discovered at the end of the 19th century, over 1100 years from when it was buried by a massive earthquake.  It’s an amazing preservation of the mosaic heritage of the region.
  • Jesus’ Baptism Site: We then wound our way down the side of the mountains towards the Jordan River – one of the most beautiful drives in Jordan (even if it does make you a bit queasy with all the twists and turns).  Just north of the Dead Sea, we parked our car and hopped into the Baptism Site bus that drove us to the beginning of a canvas-covered walkway, edged with bright pink flowers, which meanders beside the Jordan River to the baptism site.  The site is a series of pools that is claimed to be where John the Baptist baptized Jesus.  A few hundred meters more down the path we came to the present-day location of the Jordan River, where we dipped our toes into the water (a small relief in the 43 degree heat) and said hello to all the tourists visiting the site from the West Bank side (the river is only a few meters wide, and is the border between Jordan and Palestine).
  • Mount Nebo: After our visit to the river, we again wound our way back up the mountain to the Mount Nebo lookoff, where Moses looked out over the Promised Land.

Day 3:  Petra, Petra Kitchen

  • Petra: On day 3, we followed the Dead Sea highway for a couple of hours, then finished the last hour of our journey winding along the scenic King’s Highway, passing the Shoback Crusader Castle en route, to end up in Petra Village.  We headed straight for Petra, at least to get a couple hours of sightseeing in before sundown.  One of the most beautiful parts of Petra is the entrance – a two-kilometer hike through a canyon called the “Siq”.  It ends at the amazing tomb façade called “The Treasury” – what you’d probably all recognize from the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  We made the steep ascent up to the “High Place”, from where you can look over the rest of ancient Petra and admire the pink carved rock faces that overlook the historic city.  The high place was once a place of animal sacrifice, and you can still see the altar, with drainage channels for blood, preserved, carved into the rock.  For a special treat at the end of the day, we hired donkeys to trot us back out to the entrance instead of the hike – somewhere between a fun and a terrifying experience J
  • Petra Kitchen: That night, we spent three hours learning how to cook Jordanian specialties in the Petra Kitchen.  Baba ganooj, lentil soup, tahini salad, meat “arais” (aka “Bedouin pizza”), and baked chicken with veg.  For dessert, we were served crescent-moon sweets served during Ramadan – a perfect end to a wonderful day.

Day 4:  Petra, Camel Ride into Wadi Rum, Sleep under the stars

  • Petra (take 2): The next morning, we were ready to go again at 7:30am – hiked back through the Siq then down through Petra City towards the final attraction – the Monastery.  All the donkey owners try to tell you it’s 1000 stairs up to this final building – but I’m convinced they’ve inflated that number just to sell more donkey rides up the stairway carved into the mountain.  We opted to go up on foot and made the ascent to this final beautiful building carved into the sandstone.  A café at the top was the perfect ending, from where we enjoyed the view of the Monastery while drinking more lemon and mint juice in the shade.
  • Camel Ride: Waving goodbye to Petra, we continued south for another hour and a half to Wadi Rum village.  Parking our car, we mounted four camels (Anyan, Shahan, Mahan, and Aswan) who carried us into the desert as the sun sunk lower in the sky.  Once our bottoms started to “feel” the bumpiness of the camel plodding, we jumped into a jeep to finish our journey into Bedouin Whispers  We scrambled up a nearby rock to watch the sunset over Wadi Rum, then ate a delicious Bedouin meal “zorb” – which is cooked under the sand.
  • Sleep Under the Stars: The most incredible way to end an incredible day – we dragged four beds out into the sand, climbed under our fleece blankets as the desert night temperatures started to drop, and watched the heavens turn into sparkling goodness.  Shooting stars, planets, shining satellites – they all caught our attention until our eyes finally closed.

Day 5: Wadi Rum Jeep Tour, Snorkeling in Aqaba

  • Wadi Rum Jeep Tour: Bright and early the next morning, after a breakfast of sweet tea, rusks, and thyme on flatbread, we climbed into the back of Salama’s 1981 Toyota 4×4 and headed to see the highlights of Wadi Rum.  The rock bridge, running up a sand dune, canyon carvings, Lawrence of Arabia’s spring…and otherwise stunning scenery from the back of this old jeep.
  • Snorkeling in the Red Sea: Our next stop was Aqaba.  Donning masks, snorkels, and flippers, we waddled out into the Red Sea waters, plunged our faces under water, and were met with the cheerful colours of the coral reef just offshore.  It really makes you feel like you’re up close and personal with the characters of Finding Nemo.  The reef we were exploring goes on for 2 km.  No way did we swim that far, but we gave it our best!

Day 6: Wadi Mujib, Escape the Room

  • Wadi Mujib: We travelled north from Aqaba along the Dead Sea highway, on our way back home.  On a whim, we decided to stop at Wadi Mujib.  A pricy entrance fee, but fully worth it!  With lifejackets on, we made our way along this deep canyon, up-river, against the constant current, climbing up small waterfalls and navigating through rapids.  One waterfall we had to climb more than once, as we discovered that it was actually a natural waterslide…so, of course, every time we made it to the top, we slid down it again for kicks.  The ending of the wadi is a beautiful waterfall – we made our way behind the waterfall, from where we just sat and enjoyed the spray and the pounding noise and the immense beauty of God’s magnificent creation!  Then, laying on our backs, we floated back downstream to the entrance (not quite as peaceful as it sounds as we constantly became lodged on rocks – but fun nonetheless).
  • Escape the Room: Finally back home that evening, we enjoyed hot showers, a home-made meal, and then had one more outing before the end of the trip.  About a four minute walk from our house is an awesome business called Escape the Room.  The premise of the experience is that your group is locked inside a small room.  Sixty minutes is put on the clock.  And you then have to discover how to escape by solving puzzles hidden throughout the room.  And we did it – at 59:31 (with 29 seconds to spare) – we solved the final puzzle and the door to our room miraculously opened!

Day 7:  Goodbye!

  • Final goodbye: Early the next morning, we hugged Sam and Amy goodbye as their budget tour of Jordan came to an end and they packed up for their next destination – the holy land.

Sam and Amy – we love you and we loved having you visit Jordan last week!  Can’t wait to explore Rwanda with you next!

Everyone else – we welcome you to come experience Jordan yourself J

I have a question for you:  If you’ve never been to Jordan – what do you most want to see when you visit?  If you have experienced Jordan before, what was your highlight?  Did we leave anything out of Sam and Amy’s tour?

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World Refugee Day: We thought it would only be 3 months…”

Steve and I are proud to work with Medair, a humanitarian aid agency working alongside the most vulnerable in crises around the world.  Our friend Bethany helped put this video together to commemorate World Refugee Day 2016 – please watch, enjoy, and pass it on!

There are now more than 4.8 million Syrian refugees, most of them in neighbouring countries in the Middle East. In Jordan, Medair provides psychosocial support and community health education, pays for urgent surgeries and maternal health care, and provides cash assistance and training on refugees’ legal rights. We help refugees live with dignity until home is no longer a far-off dream.

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Handing out Cash to Help Save Lives: Refugee Health in Jordan

This week we had a miracle in our family: my brother and sister-in-law brought Carman Douglas Hamilton, 7 lbs 10 oz, into the world.  I’ve spent hours just staring at pictures of him in the two days since, marveling at his teeny tiny hands and his big feet and his round head and his chubby arms and his puckered lips. It’s my first time being an auntie, and what an amazing feeling!

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Many of you have been witness to a similar miracle – whether you’re a mom or dad or auntie or uncle or grandparent.  And I want you to imagine…

What if just before that birth, you were caught in the middle of a war zone – and had to flee for your life and for the life of this baby?  Or can you imagine having left everything behind, being a stranger in a foreign country, and all of a sudden going into labour?

For a refugee family, birth is still very much part of life.  Yet, many aren’t allowed to work so their finances for paying health bills have been depleted.  Most don’t own a car or have extra money to buy diapers and baby clothes.  And the health facilities that are dedicated to public health care, including for refugees, are overcrowded.

The Government of Jordan has been extremely accommodating for Syrian refugees – for the first four years of Syria’s civil war, all refugees had access to free health care in Jordan.  However, since November 2014, the government had to start charging very nominal fees to help cover the continuing cost of providing health services for a million refugees.

One of Medair’s programmes in Jordan is a “Cash for Health” programme for Syrian refugees.  This programme identifies extremely vulnerable families and gives cash grants to help cover medical costs at public health facilities – including costs for delivering a baby.

Heba and Sham’s Story:  The very first family enrolled in Medair’s cash-for-health programme included little baby Sham and her parents, Heba and Qasem.  When Heba was pregnant, she had an emergency situation with her health.  The first hospital she was taken to refused to give her treatment or deliver her baby due to not matching their admission requirements or being able to pay the fees.  So Qasem had to take her to another hospital in a different governorate.  The Irbid Specialist Hospital agreed to take on Heba’s case.

Despite the medical complications with Heba’s health, baby Sham (which means “Syria”) was born healthy.  Qasem was overjoyed that both his wife and daughter made it through the delivery.  However, next came the challenge of paying for the delivery.  Even after collecting loans and donations from neighbours, friends, and family, Qasem was still not able to pay the fees (equal to just over $100 CAD).

The hospital made Qasem turn in his ID papers until he could pay.  (ID paperwork is quite important here for a refugee.  Without it, refugees can be deported back to Syria.)  Shortly thereafter, Qasem, Heba, and Sham became the first family enrolled in the cash-for-health programme.  Once he received his cash grant, Qasem said:  “With the cash I have received from Medair, I can now pay the rest of the fees to the hospital and get back my Government Identification, buy Heba good food and winter clothes, and get a heater for Sham. Thank you so much Medair, I really don’t know what I would have done!”

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Celebrating Jordan’s 70th Independence Day

We celebrated Independence Day alongside thousands and thousands of Jordanians this week – even Google’s home page in Jordan featured Jordanian colours on May 25th.  Jordan is a strongly patriotic nation – that day, almost every car on the road had 1 or more flags flying out their windows.  The traffic was incredible – a normally 7-minute journey took us over an hour.

We joined the celebrations at King Hussein park, proudly carrying our massive Jordanian flag through the crowds, amidst many people shouting to us (the seemingly only foreigners present) “Welcome!  Welcome to Jordan!”  At the park, we watched as a dozen sky-divers floated to the ground, their parachutes proudly bearing the colours of the Jordanian flag.  The sky-divers also had a cord attached from their trousers to their parachutes, off of which another Jordanian flag flew out into the wind as they descended – it was one of the coolest displays I’ve seen at a national celebration – to look up and see one after another parachute descending proudly bearing your national colours is amazing.

We shouted and waved at police and army helicopters who circled just above the crowd, swooping down over us to screams and clapping.  (And this wasn’t just young folk screaming – the old ladies were right there alongside us, arms in the air!)  We took pictures, had our pictures taken, oohed and aahed at the stealth planes and the F16s as they proudly circled the skies, and watched as trick-planes did loops and upside-down stunts and stalled their engines and caused our hearts to jump into our throats in the airshow.  We enjoyed snacks from vendors – popcorn and roasted nuts and fried bread – and played Frisbee and football and tried our best Arabic with some very curious children in the park trying to make friends with the foreigners.  We laughed a lot and thoroughly enjoyed celebrating Independence – istiklal (in Arabic) – with Jordan.

But the whole celebration made me realize I don’t know that much about Jordan’s independence story.  So I thought I’d just compile a summary of points about the history of Jordan (thank you Wikipedia), and how Independence Day came to be:

  • 1200 BC – Moab, Ammon, and Edom: Jordan has been populated for a loooong time (remnants of communities from 20,000 years ago have been found here). But three nations emerged in the land currently known as Jordan around 1200 BC (~ish): Moab, Ammon, and Edom.  These guys are referenced quite frequently in the Old Testament of the Bible as enemies of Israel and Judah.
  • 300 BC – the Nabateans: Around 300 BC, the Nabatean Kingdom was established in the south of Jordan, with Petra named as their capital (you might know Petra from the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”).  The Nabateans were nomadic Arabs who had a pretty big monopoly on trade routes through the desert – thus becoming very wealthy.  They also had an impressive water storage and pipe scheme – you’ll see it when you visit Petra – as a water engineer, that was one of my favourite parts.
  • 300 BC – The Greeks: The Greeks (under Alexander the Great) influenced northern Jordan, creating cities such as Amman, Jerash, and Um Qays (all places you can still go and visit today – the ancient structures are incredible).
  • 63 BC – the Romans: The people in the Jordan area were assimilated into the Roman Empire around 63 BC.  An interesting note is that the Romans (in many places) took all the Greek structures (and gods and temples) and just re-named them to the Roman equivalents.
  • 390 AD – the Byzantines: Christianity became the official religion of the area around 390 AD, under the Byzantine Empire.  Churches built between around 400 AD in Jordan had incredible mosaic floors, which you can still visit today around the Madaba area – as many of them were preserved after being buried by a massive earthquake in 749 AD, and only re-discovered around the beginning of the 1900s.
  • 600 AD – the Muslims. Islam swept through the Jordan area around the 600s AD.  A few empires existed during this period – there was the Rashidun caliphate, then the Ummayads, then the Abbasid caliphate, then the Fatimids.  From this time period, you can go and visit the “desert castles” in northern Jordan.
  • 1100s AD – the Crusades: Then came “The Crusades” – nine crusader castles were built in the Jordan area – during the 1100s.  Karak castle is a remnant of this period, with some pretty gruesome stories.
  • 1200s AD – Saladin and the Ayyubids: Saladin, a Muslim military and political leader, defeated the crusaders and established the Ayyubids dynasty, which existed from the end of the 1100s to mid-1200s.  You can visit Ajloun castle from this period (a castle Saladin had built).
  • 1200s – 1500s AD – the Mamluks: Then came the Mamluks, who ruled the area from the 1200s to the early 1500s.
  • 1516 – 1918 – the Ottomans: The Ottoman Empire took over the Levant area, including Jordan, in 1516.  Jordan was quite important as a way-point in the Muslim pilgrimage by rail from Istanbul to Mecca.
  • 1916 – The Great Arab Revolt: The Hashemite army secured present-day Jordan from the Ottomans (the Ottoman authorites apparently neglected the areas and peoples of the Levant).  They were supported by local Bedouins, Circassians and Christians, as well as by the Allies during WWI. (2016 marks the 100th anniversary of this revolt – we celebrate this next week!)
  • 1921 – the Emirate of Transjordan: After World War 1, the Ottoman Empire was broken up, and the “Emirate of Transjordan” was created in 1921. This emirate was a British “protectorate” – which essentially means they were autonomous, but still under the rule of the sovereign state of Britain.
  • 1946 – INDEPENDENCE! Then, on May 25, 1946, Jordan became an independent sovereign state – named “The Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan”.  (Today, the Hashemites include descendants of the man who initiated the Great Arab Revolt – but their long-ago ancestor after whom they are named was “Hashim ibn Abd Manaf”, the great-grandfather of Prophet Mohammed)
  • 1948 – Arab-Israeli War: The story didn’t end there.  There was the Arab-Israeli war in 1948, which followed the creation of the state of Israel, when Jordan captured the West Bank (the other side of the Jordan River).  That’s when Jordan took its current name:  “The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan” on December 1st, 1948.  During this period, over 700,000 refugees (Arab Palestinians) fled Israel, many landing in current-day Jordan.
  • 1967 – Six Day War: the West Bank became under Israeli control during the Six-Day War.  Another 300,000 Palestinian refugees fled the West Bank, again, many to Jordan.  Resentment towards Israel is still strongly felt among the Palestinian refugee groups of 1948 and 1967, especially among older Palestinians who feel that they can “never go to their homeland” because of Israel’s continued occupation of Palestine.  There were continued tensions through the 1970s and 1980s between Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian, and Lebanese contingents.
  • 1994 – Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty: Even today, you can actually visit Israel from Jordan.  No stamps are put on your passport (as an Israeli stamp on your passport can prevent you from entering several other countries, including Lebanon and Sudan), but there is general acceptance of the current state of peace.
  • 2003 – the Iraq War: When the US invaded Iraq, many Iraqi refugees fled to Jordan.  Jordan, at this point, was starting to become the peaceful island in the midst of regional turmoil, and was playing a large part in becoming a country of refuge to fleeing peoples. 
  • 2011 – the Arab Spring: This period has seen King Abdullah II try to put in place political reform to ensure stability in the country.  This has largely been successful, as no large-scale destabilization or revolt has occurred in the country.  But during this period, Jordan has also taken in about 1.5 million refugees from neighbouring Syria as a result of their civil war.

So that’s a quick summary of Jordan’s history – and this last point about the Syrian refugees – that’s why we’re here!  And maybe Independence Day is not just about 1946, but maybe it’s because of all the pride people feel at being Jordanian, or at living in a country that has adopted them, adopted their ancestors, and it’s a place we all feel proud to call “our home”.

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Are you “allergic” to your partner’s personality?

This week was a special week in the Rous House.  Two years ago, Steve and I hosted 17 Canadian visitors and 83 British friends as we celebrated the commencement of our marriage in Oxford, England!  This week, we celebrated our anniversary at “Kan Zaman” (which means ‘once upon a time’), a fantastic restaurant here in Amman that serves classic and non-traditional Arab fare.  Two years down…fifty more to go 🙂

But more than just an opportunity to have a nice meal out, we also took the chance to reflect on a game we’d played with our team here over the weekend.  The game was called the “Core Quadrant”.

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  1. Quadrant 1: Your Core Quality. Out of a whole bunch of different personality qualities, you select one “core quality” that people (and you) recognize as the key quality they would use to describe you.    Words like “courage”, “generous”, “determination”, “thoroughness”, “spontaneity” – these are all positive qualities.  There were over 60 to choose from.
  2. Quadrant 2: Your Pitfall. Then, as a team you go through a whole stack of “negative” qualities asking yourselves the question: “if a person had TOO MUCH of this good quality, what kind of negative outcome could happen?”.  Typically, we found between 5 and 15 possible negatives for each core quality we assessed.  For example, we chose “calmness” as a core quality.  Some of the “too much of a good thing” negatives we then selected included “passivity”, “boring”, “resignation”, etc.  The person who was the focus of the exercise then went through all the options and selected the one negative word that he or she most recognized in themselves as their pitfall, when their strength essentially becomes their weakness.
  3. Quadrant 3: Your Challenge. Once a pitfall was decided upon, then once again we as a team went through all the positive words asking ourselves: “what’s the positive opposite to this negative pitfall?”  In our example, we had chosen the word “passivity” as the pitfall of “calmness”.  Then, for the positive opposites of passivity, we selected a range of words including “determination”, “drive”, etc.  And once again, the person who was the focus of the exercise chose the one that he or she most admires in other people, or most misses in her/himself.  This word is this person’s “challenge”.  In the core quadrant, this “challenge” is the quality that will most bring you balance.  For example, if “calmness” is your core quality and “drive” is your challenge, you will grow the most as a balanced person if you learn more and more to be “calmly driven”.  You have the most to learn from people who have your challenge as their core quality.
  4. Quadrant 4: Your Allergy. As the last part of the exercise, we once again went through the negative cards asking ourselves “if a person had TOO MUCH of this good quality, what kind of negative quality would emerge?”.  For “drive” as the challenge, we came up with negatives such as “egoism” or “pushiness”.  The cool part of the quadrant is that once you determine your allergy based on your challenge, you’ll recognize that your allergy is a negative opposite to your own core quality.  In our example, “pushiness” would be the negative opposite of “calmness”.  So often, the very quality that we admire in others, in this example we used “drive” as our challenge, we get confused with “pushiness”.  So when you notice you have an “allergic reaction” to someone (for example, a pushy person), actually – there’s also probably something in that person that you have a great deal to learn from, and probably something you admire!!  Not their pushiness, but indeed, their drive.

This exercise is really applicable to life on a team – whether you work in an office, or like us, if you work on a Medair humanitarian team.  Sometimes, you have such frustrating people to work with!!  And yet you’ve got to work together to accomplish a greater purpose!  The Core Quadrant can really help you separate someone’s positive core quality from what you perceive as your allergy. It can help you appreciate the amazing qualities of that person apart from the elements that most annoy you.

One of the realizations I had going through my own core quadrant, when I got to my “challenge” quadrant – was that the three key challenges I recognized in myself were three of the core qualities I most admire about Steve – “kindness”, “unselfishness”, and “helpfulness”.  But the scary part of that realization was that his “too much of a good thing” outcomes were also my allergies!  And guess what?  My pitfall – it showed up on Steve’s allergy list, too!

So during our week of celebrating, we pretty vulnerably got to open up and discuss what we most admire in the other person, but also how that thing that we most admire also becomes the most frustrating thing about one another.  This is what I celebrate two years into marriage:  that more and more I can appreciate the core qualities of my husband and forgive him when those qualities sometimes come out too strongly.  And that more and more my “pitfalls” are lessening as I try to emulate the qualities I love about him so much.  And I love that through this refining process, God is using marriage to shape each of us to become a better reflection of Him!

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100 Years after Lawrence of Arabia: Exploring Wadi Rum

Over the Easter Weekend, we were given a special gift – a chance to explore Wadi Rum in southern Jordan.  Jordan, a land full of fascinating history and unique experiences around every corner. Steve and I spent two nights sleeping in a Bedouin camp and the time in between scrambling over rocks and trekking through soft sand, taking in the vast and harsh beauty of Wadi Rum. Let your eyes feast on our day…

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Dead2Red 2015: How to Run 242 km with the Waves of Dread!

Want to know how to run the Dead2Red race, a 242 km relay race through the southern Jordanian deserts, in under 18 hours?

Here’s a video of our team’s run this year, and you can find some prep tips down below:

Dead2Red Waves of dREaD fb from Janna Rous on Vimeo.

Tip 1:  You should probably train a little.  Focus on interval training.  Focus on speed.  And do a long-run every week just to prep your body for the length of time you’ll have to stay physically engaged in the race.

Tip 2:  As long as you’re relatively fit and a decently average semi-sprinter, you’ll be okay.  The bigger battle during the race is the mental fight against sheer exhaustion and pain in your thighs that may remind you of being stabbed.

Tip 3:  Get your running rhythm right.  Decide how you do it…some teams pass the baton to the next runner every so many minutes, some teams pass the baton after a set distance, some teams leave their runners to run through the dark unaccompanied, some teams have a car accompanying their runner at all times.  Whatever your strategy – know it and make sure all your runners are comfortable with it.

Tip 4:  Most important:  have fun.  This is the craziest run of your year, you can bet your bottom dollar on that.  Enjoy it.  You’ll look back on it with fond memories.

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Saturday Morning: The Rous House Kitchen

After a week of long hours in the office, often one of the best parts of Saturday morning is getting up while the world still sleeps and working on a delicious treat for Saturday breakfast!

cinnamon bunsThis morning’s treat was cinnamon rolls, warm out of the oven.  Isn’t there something wonderful about the smell, sight, taste of homemade cinnamon buns?  Steve and friends visiting from England were the taste-testers.  (I didn’t actually taste due to my slight aversion to anything too gluten-ful…but I got to eat some of Steve’s delicious homemade granola instead..a fair trade, if you ask me.)

I used to make these  many a weekend when I lived in Sudan (yeast dough is an easy option no matter where you are in the world!)  My opinion:  everyone always goes a little too light on the cinnamon.  Go bold.  Make sure the spicy cinnamon flavor comes out.  Check out the recipe I used here and enjoy your own weekend delight.