The language of hope from the hidden and hurting in Jordan

Thank you in Arabic
I learned my first Arabic word during a bizarre Pepperoncini accident –– “Shu-kraan”

Our driver greeted us at the Queen Alia International Airport after a 20+ hour journey from California. We stopped at a shawarma fast food place for dinner and he introduced himself saying, “My name is Salam, it means peace in Aramaic, the language of Jesus.”

No one I had ever known introduced himself in quite that way. After his introduction, the world seemed to slow in this busy part of town, coming into sharper focus.

It was around 10PM. Situated in a circle, or roundabout, in a heavily policed area of the city eleven of us from my local church sat at a few outdoor tables taking in the view. When we wondered why the police presence was so strong, Salam mentioned the many embassies located in this part of Amman. Numbered circles are the way people in Amman shorthand locales. I quickly learned that knowing my hotel was near the 4th circle would be important for navigating the city.

Salam had to come to my aid almost immediately at dinner, because I was involved in an odd Pepperoncini incident. A friend bit into her shawarma and Pepperocini juice streamed from it directly into my left eye. Salam brought over a bunch of napkins. I couldn’t stop laughing, even though it burned my eyeball pretty bad. I laughed harder when the lady who did the squirting said my eye looked awful. Salam and I agreed this must be a good sign for my work here.

“How do you say thank you in Arabic?” I asked.

“Shu-kraan,” he said.

“Shu-kraan, Salam,” I said, using another napkin to dab at my teary eye.

Happy meals in Jordan at a shawarma fast food place
Happy meals in Jordan at a shawarma fast food place

After dinner, we walked to an ATM to get our first Jordanian Dinar (JD). As we took turns withdrawing our currency––colorful, exotic bills featuring kings, scenes from the Great Arab Revolt, famous palaces, Islamic shrines and beautiful Arabic script––a small group of us waited outside for our group to complete their transactions. An Iraqi refugee, Salam shared with us that he and his family had arrived in Amman a year and a half ago. The day before had been his three-year-old daughter’s birthday. When I asked how his family celebrated, he smiled, quickly taking his phone out of his back pocket. They ate cake and his daughter wore a sweet pink plastic tiara. He had the photo of the birthday girl for us to see in a matter of seconds, tiara and all.

He believed that it is good his daughters are so young because they won’t remember a lot of what they are going through. He hopes to give them an education so they can have a better life. The timeline of his story spoke to the general fate of the refugees we aided here––fleeing Baghdad for the North in 2003, his family had to leave Northern Iraq when ISIS took control of his village in 2014. Cell phones are a lifeline of sorts for the refugees, housing their most important photos––of the homes they lost, the horrors they suffered, places and people they would never see again. The photos on their cell phones were the only history they had left.

“Christians can’t return to Iraq. Not if they want to live,” he said.

His father is still in Iraq, too tired and too old to leave his home. Most older people felt that way. Salam will never see his father again. Being born into a Christian family proved to be a death sentence for him and his family. With a brother in Germany and one in California, his dreams include leaving the Arab World because of the people that are close to the book.

He turned to me and asked me, “Do you know what I mean?”

“Yes,” I said thinking I knew. But he continued, knowing I really didn’t.

He said, “They want to kill people like us. The ones that are close to the book. They want to turn me Muslim so I will go to heaven.”

This was my introduction to our work here. We hoped to be instruments of encouragement and hope to people who had and are suffering unimaginable trauma. Who faced death rather than deny their faith. Most of the time listening and praying were all we could do. But these things that I once thought were too simple to be effective, would prove incredibly powerful. Whatever measure of encouragement and inspiration I gave came back in much greater measure from the refugees I had the honor of meeting and the stories of their courage and faith that I had the privilege of hearing.

Why did I go? I was definitely called to attend the interest meeting at church when the time came. I didn’t know why. But in that meeting I came face-to-face with a truth I’d known my entire life but never really understood until that day. My dad was a refugee. So many strangers helped him. It was my honor to do what I could to help people who had lost everything, like my dad, and needed to begin again.

Laura looking up at a map of the world


Arabic is a visually stunning language and pleasant to the ear. I had a bit of a love affair with its rhythm and visual beauty. It is said that Arabic is the language of the angels. The language of the divine. I wouldn’t fully understand the meaning of this until I helped to bring aid to an Iraqi refugee family who had a young son. The boy had a deeply spiritual nature. We did not meet him as he was in school, but his parents told us stories about their son, an only child. How when all seemed lost the boy would hit his knees, pray to Jesus and quote scripture to them about hope and joy. He has memorized half of the Bible.

A boy writes a book about love
A boy writes a book about love

Soon his parents shared that their son is writing a book about love. The mother, who possesses a smile that could light up the darkest night, brought out the manuscript of her son’s book. Our translator, a wonderful young woman in her early twenties also an Iraqi refugee, took the note pad and began to translate. The words were beautiful and after reading a few paragraphs aloud, she got choked up and could no longer read. She apologized, saying that the Arabic the boy used was so profound there really was no translation in English. It was then that we learned the young boy is afflicted with an illness that has stunted his growth, so he his much smaller than the other children his age. The mother prays for a cure and tries to keep a brave face.

When the time came for them to share their experience in Iraq with us, a practice that is usually therapeutic to those who have gone through trauma, the husband would only say that he worked in a market. Total silence. A fire burned in his far-away eyes. They wouldn’t speak of their journey, the only ones in my experience who chose to stay silent.

All is calm, all is bright
All is calm, all is bright

In this season of giving thanks and giving gifts I am humbled by the tender mercies we receive every day that open our eyes to the beauty in the world, faith in the unseen and the gift of hope in the darkness.

What beauty and wisdom lie in the languages we don’t yet understand. Here are just a few examples of the beauty of Arabic.

Ya ‘Aburnee “I hope I die before (you bury me)”

Ya Amar “My moon” or “my most beautiful”

Amal “Hope”

Kef “Something that gives you pleasure”

Taarradhin “A compromise where no one is a loser”

From Jordan with love
From Jordan with love

Shu-kraan for your time and support.

How to smile when you get a speeding ticket

While I was sitting in my seat, waiting for the CHP (California Highway Patrol) to give me my speeding ticket, I thought about this experiment I just read about the other day. I’m surprised it slipped by me as the story won the Pulitzer about seven years ago. Joshua Bell, one of the world’s premiere violinists plays a Stradivarius made in 1712, a three million dollar instrument, in the D.C. subway only  to have a few ladies stop and listen.

If you want to read more about Joshua’s Bell experiment click here and find out why he felt the need to repeat it last September.

Are you too busy to notice what’s around you? Do you rush? I do. Why? I just feel the need sometimes. I don’t even know I’m doing it until the universe slows me down. The other day when I got pulled over, I felt the sun warm on my back, gave the universe a big smile and said thank you.

We have a WINNER! And the mystery txt

A **BIG** congrats to the winner of this stop of the LUCKY LEPRECHAUN HOP Emily L.!

Here’s the ebooks she’s won:

Shadow Slayer (Shadow Series #2) by Laura A. H. Elliott
Undertow by Elle Chandou
The One by Heather Self
The Dark by Heather Self
The Misfit McCabe Series by LK Gardner-Griffie (3 ebooks in the series)

woohooo! What a great way to start the spring!

HAPPY SPRING BREAK! I’d love to know what you’re reading right now…any suggestions for a lazy day at the beach?

Ok..and now for something completely hilarious. I just got this random text from someone I don’t know. Here’s what it said. Can you make sense of it?

Hey do you envision the track wholly changing gears sonically with each decade or retaining some thread of the dead prez beat vibe throughout?

**googles dead prez beat vibe**

I tried to go grocery shopping…I really did :D

I know y’all can relate to this. You’re writing. Or reading. You don’t want to do anything but write or read. You can’t put the book down. It’s just too dang good. You can’t leave your computer. There are so many deadlines to meet. But, there’s things like eating and laundry and real world stuff that has to get done right? So I open our very empty refrigerator. I sooo didn’t want to leave and go shopping. I have so much going on. But, I actually plan dinner, make a list…go out to the car and I press unlock on my key. Nothing. I press it like five more times. Nothing. The fancy key must need a new battery or something. It’s hilarious. Here I am standing in my driveway with a key to my own car, and not able to drive it. [Only other key is with hubby, out and about today up north.] Well…I guess the universe thinks I should keep writing too. *sits back down* *decides which teaser from Shadow Slayer to post this week* *grins*

There’s a lot of dancing scenes in my books. I think it’s because I love to dance soooo much. I’ll be posting a few teasers before Shadow Slayer’s release Sept. 18. One of the scenes has to be on the dance floor!

If there were rides in EDITLAND

I am knee deep in edits of my upcoming novel TRANSFER STUDENT, a sci-fi romance. It’s a curious thing to be your own editorial calendar maker. You are essentially having conversations like these, with yourself:

“Those edits needed to be in last week.”

“I know, it’s just going a lot slower than I expectied.”

“You always say that when you’re editing.”

“I guess I should give myself more time then, huh?”

“Well, where are we at?”

“Um, close.”

“What does close mean?”

Ah, the perils of being your own master. Of “doing-it-all” which of course, no one can. Behind me there’s MY WOLFPACK. And I’d never get any of this done without their support. Who’s in the pack? My readers of course, and all the amazing indie authors out there who are never too busy to help a sista out when she’s in need. Also my editors too. Sometimes it’s a joke. Sometimes it’s an RT on Twitter. Sometimes it’s a review. Most of the time, it’s just a laugh. It’s really important to LAUGH, and drink lots of awesome tea and make some fabulous cookies too. I hate laundry more than life itself while I’m editing. But I love working out. It’s like my brain knows it’s on vacation when I’m hiking or whatever. So I’m in Editland. I’ll be here for a while. And it’s really busy in Editland, I wish there were rides here. If there was an EDITLAND AMUSEMENT PARK what rides would you like to go on? Here are a few I’d like to see:

Procrastination Plunge [like Splash Mountain–WOOHOOO!!]

Red Pen River [where you sit on inner tubes with a cooler of beer and float to the bank for a Frito Pie ever now and then.]

Voodoo Lounge [singing the blues about grammar rules]

Haunted Mansion [of abandoned plot threads–BE AFRAID, very afraid!]