Spring Time

We spent so much of the last year out of Iraq but we wouldn’t want to miss the spring. Spring time here is beautiful; the weather is perfect, the flowers are blooming, the hills are green. We are doing all we can to soak it up before the summer heat sets in, picnics.

One of the things we like to do is go out for picnics. We had a really nice picnic in the park for Easter. We were in the same spot as last year and we took a family picture that turned out quite similar – with the addition of one person =)

Here we are this year and last:


We also did a fun Easter egg hunt for the kids and got some great pictures of them, I will share them below. I talked to the kids about why eggs are a symbol for easter and the conversation went something like this:

me – “Eggs are a symbol of new life, baby animals come out of eggs. Chicks come out of chicken eggs, baby dinosaurs come out of dino eggs. This is why we have eggs at Easter time, Easter celebrates Jesus coming back to life and giving us new life. Eggs are a symbol of new life… so why do we have eggs at Easter time?”

Jack – “dinosaurs”

maybe next year.





Home at Last!!

Well after what felt like the longest car ride of our lives we are home!!

We didn’t sleep much at all but it was nice to be in a hotel than at the airport. The two flights to Sirnak were really quick but we were all SO tired! While we were waiting for our luggage, sweet Faye just sat down on a suitcase and wailed.

The border crossing was WAY smoother and quicker than we expected. It was a series of checks so it took about an hour but we hardly spent any time waiting! Our taxi driver was super helpful too.

We got across so quickly that our ride hadn’t arrived yet so we had to wait awhile at the taxi depot. Once he got there we loaded up and drove what ended up being about 6 hours home. The kids played, whined, slept and cried.

We arrived home around 10:30pm, the kids went immediately for their toys. Someone had cleaned the house so it all looked pretty good. One leaky faucet, no internet and a small sign of rats. We have SO much to do. We are trying to patiently take it one step at a time.

Today we made it to the store for groceries, started unpacking, had pizza (and used the internet) at a nearby cafe and we are going to have dinner at a friend’s house tonight 🙂

Here are s few pics…

In the taxi

At the taxi depot


Made it to Istanbul

Just a quick update from our hotel in Istanbul, we made it.

It has not been easy but God has provided along the way. On the first flight we say behind two ladies sad their own babies were grown, they held Eli almost the entire 8 hours so we were able to focus on the other two and get some rest. Then the London airport had a play place for the kids that I just happened to stumble upon!

The Istanbul airport was rough but we got a big enough taxi for all of us and all our stuff and we made it to the hotel.

Unfortunately jet lag and excitement are not helping the kids sleep and we only have 4 hours or so 😑 until we need to wake and start another big day.

Thank you so much for the prayers, I know God is with us and I know we will get there, eventually 😉

Some pics from the day….

Preparing for the Journey

Well, the trip we were originally meant to take in August… then again in February… is now finally going to happen. The baby we came with is now a toddler and in her place is a new baby. Matt learned Arabic, both kids learned to count to twenty and say the whole alphabet. And me, well, I learned that my body does have limits and that rest is a very important thing.

We are excited about many things for our return to Iraq. Jack will start kindergarten (probably at home), we are going to have someone work with the kids in Arabic, and Matt will be back in the office with his co-workers and on the field. More than all that though, we are excited to be back in our own house as a family of five. Since the beginning of 2017, we have spent less than 3 months together, just us.

This journey back will be unlike any other we have done. Not only is our party growing, but we still can’t fly into the Sulaymaniyah airport so the last leg of our trip will be over land. We would very much appreciate prayers as we embark on this three-day journey. I have written out our detailed itinerary if you are interested in praying with us in real time. We would especially appreciate prayers for sleep, for patience, for calm kids, and for smooth connections.

Tuesday, March 20 we leave Dallas/Fort Worth at 11:15 PM

9 hours later we arrive in London for a 3 hour layover then a 4 hour flight to Istanbul

We will arrive at 11:10PM local time (3pm CST), claim our 4 large bags, go through customs and go to a hotel in Istanbul (I’m trying to pack lightly but it is so hard!)

Our next flight is the next day, the 22nd, at 10am (2am CST) we will head back to the airport and take a 1 hour flight to Ankara, quick layover, then another 1 hour flight to Sirnak, Turkey.

Then we will get into a taxi and drive about an hour to the border where we will wait….

When you wake up on the morning of the 22nd, you can pray for us as we sit at the border. Pray it is smooth, quick, that the kids find something fun to do, Eli sleeps, we all have lots and lots of patience, and that our Kurdish visas are still enough to get us across.

Once we cross the border, our friend will be waiting for us in a big car with carseats for the kids. Depending on how the crossing went, we will either drive straight home or stay in a nearby town for the night. It is about 7 hours from there to our home in Sulaymaniyah.

We will try to send updates along the way and I will post here as soon as possible. Most real-time updates will probably be on Instagram. If you don’t yet follow Matt and I, our user names there are caylaelisew and matt.willingham, don’t forget to check the ‘stories’ at the top of the Instagram feed.

Thanks for the prayers and all the love!


A few pics just cuz =)



5 Passports

Thanks for the prayers, Eli’s passport arrived today! Now we just need some tickets and we will be on our way 🙂 all 5 of us 🙂

Here We Go Again

I have been meaning to write for a while but life got pretty crazy with the addition of another little person. It has been a rough year, so much time apart, so little time in our own home and so much of what feels like living in limbo. Also, three kids is a lot!

After over eight months (for the kids and I) in California, we packed up our bags and made our way out to Texas. We will spend a couple of weeks here before going back to Iraq.

Transitioning is always rough, especially after being somewhere so long but we are excited to get back into our own house and into a routine again.

It has been a stressful process planning for our return. Our departure date has changed multiple times and the airport in Kurdistan is still not open to international travel. Right now we are planning to travel by air to a town on the border of Iraq and Turkey then travel over land across the border and down to our home town. With two preschoolers and a newborn, this feels a little daunting.

Please pray for us as we get ready for this trip and also a huge prayer that Eli’s passport comes in before we leave (yes, we are still waiting on this =O

A few pics….

Saying goodbye to friends:


On the plane:


Playing with Granna:


Smiles from our sweet boy:


Eli Daniel

View More: http://shutterandspicephotography.pass.us/cayla

Our newest addition finally came! It seemed like such a long wait but it was so worth it because he is precious!

He was born on December 17th at 4:30am (middle of the night labor was NOT fun) weighed in at 9lbs 2oz (my biggest baby yet!) and 21 inches long.

It took us a few days to decide on a name and the one we chose came totally out of the blue… Eli Daniel. We think it fits him well =)

Here are a few more pictures of his birth, introduction to his big brother and big sister (they are both very excited about his arrival) and a few shots my amazing friend Desiree.


FullSizeRender.jpgIMG_3339View More: http://shutterandspicephotography.pass.us/caylaView More: http://shutterandspicephotography.pass.us/caylaView More: http://shutterandspicephotography.pass.us/caylaView More: http://shutterandspicephotography.pass.us/caylaView More: http://shutterandspicephotography.pass.us/cayla

Big Updates

I have been meaning to post for months so there is a lot to tell you. We have been enjoying our summer in San Diego. Matt just finished a two month intensive Arabic language program in Northern California and is spending a few weeks with us in San Diego before heading back to Iraq. The kids and I were planning to go back with him but have decided to stay through the end of the year because…

We’re having a baby and it’s a boy!

We revealed the sex of the baby yesterday at Jack’s birthday party, he is FOUR! Here are a few more pictures from the party…


Sorry it has been so long since I have posted, I’ll try to share again sooner!

To School or Not to School

Oh, I have had the hardest time deciding what to do about preschool for Jack. The school question in general causes much angst. There aren’t many great options around here and most of our friends homeschool (which I am open to but not very excited about).

The main thing we want for him is socialization with other kiddos and the chance to learn more Kurdish. We have some friends who have had their kids in a local but private nursery/preschool and liked it so we decided to try that one.


We took him for the first time on Monday, he did not want to stay. He was crying and grabbing onto the door frame, one of the teachers had to carry him off. I felt so bad for the teachers but the woman downstairs said it was like that for almost every kid.

There was no paperwork or anything, but I felt weird leaving without a way for them to get in touch with us, you know, just in case. I asked her if I could write down our number and she gave me their card, so I said again in Kurdish “no, my number, in case you need to call us.” She gave me a sticky note.

He came home upset that we had left him there but cheered up when we took him for ice cream to celebrate.

So today is Wednesday and I tried to take him again. Even with the promise of chocolate and ice cream he didn’t want to go. He told me he was too sick, too tired, laid on the floor, wouldn’t put on his shoes and then cried all the way to the car. We got there and he cried all the way to the gate, which was locked. The tears suddenly stopped when I said “well I guess you aren’t going to school today” And would you believe what he said to me… “but I want to go to school”

You’ve got to be kidding me.

Turns out it was some government holiday today. We obviously haven’t been going to the school long enough to be aware of the schedule. We should probably try again tomorrow…. maybe =’0

He is Risen!

He is risen indeed!

We had such a nice Easter celebration. A huge gathering of Jesus followers, representing different groups from all around the city and representing probably more than a dozen different countries got together in the park to worship our Lord, pray and picnic together. So much fun! We didn’t get any pictures of the group, but here is one of our family =)


Also, I wanted to celebrate Faye because she just turned 18 months old! It was actually April 5, so I am a little behind, but I got some great pictures of her on our picnic so here they come 😉

Faye has been full of smiles since she was abut a month old. She loves to giggle and loves to play. Now that she can get around on her own, her independent and adventurous spirit are showing. She isn’t happy shopping from the stroller anymore, she wants to be up walking on her own, greeting shopkeepers and looking for the next good deal herself. She is also up for trying something new. At the playground she wants to go down every slide, try the swings, climb up the ladders. And she is so strong! She is constantly surprising me with what she can pick up and carry, she can climb up and down the bars on our house, and already figured out how to get out of her bed =O She is also surprising us every day with new words. Her favorite lately being “chock-at” (chocolate) which she begs for constantly. She likes it dark too, even 90%!

And did I mention she is beautiful?!


June 2018
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