Sunday, August 19, 2018

Sweet Sabbath

We had the honor of returning to Pleasant Grove Baptist Church today to update them on the translation project.  I got to hear my favorite preacher, and the church provided a sumptuous potluck for lunch where we lingered over the good food and sweet fellowship.

Afterwards, we walked a few steps to spend time with some of my favorite people on earth:  

We were fewer in number today, but we still enjoyed playing and laughing and catching up.  What a joy to be close enough to family to continue to strengthen those bonds!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Eagles have landed

Yesterday, the rain held off long enough for us to pack two vehicles and a little U-Haul trailer full of things to make two dorm rooms home for Sarah and Benjamin (and with a lot of stuff that belongs to Sarah's roommate who studied abroad last semester).  These guys have totally emptied their rooms because when this school year ends, they won't have a home to go back to.  The rest of us plan to be back in the Solomon Islands by that point.

My grandma swung by the house to say goodbye.  Reminded me of twenty-six years ago when another college student was leaving for the new school year.

When we arrived at John Brown University (whose mascot is an eagle), Sarah was attacked by hugs.  So much joy as friends were reunited!  The unloading went quickly as many hands pitched in to make light work.  I'm thankful that my kids have a great support network of family and friends who love and encourage.

While Aaron went to return the trailer, the rest of us unpacked boxes and lofted the beds.

I loved the juxtaposition of books and spices - two of Sarah's favorite things.

After supper, we got Benjamin unpacked and lofted.  Then the fab four headed back to the hotel while Sarah and Benjamin made a trip to Walmart to buy the things they had forgotten to bring.

And to make a run to Sonic for half price shakes after 8:00.

This morning, the fab four loaded up in the empty van with school books and headed back to JBU for the day.

 We worked in the back of the room, the girls and I on school and Aaron on translation work, while Sarah and Benjamin sat at the front of the room.  Even amidst the meetings and a flood of information poured on the new international students and missionary kids, the hearts of the staff spoke loud and clear to their commitment to serving these students and to honoring Christ.

 Our eagles have landed in a safe nest indeed.  Let the adventure begin!

Monday, August 13, 2018

"She wasn't afraid of people in need because she wasn't afraid of needing others.  She didn't mind extending kindness to others, because she herself relied on the kindness of others."  ~Brene` Brown

No school means opportunities for our family to be involved more actively in hospitality this summer.  We've stretched our definition of hospitality a little bit over the last few weeks.  Sometimes Aaron and I have met another couple at a restaurant, sometimes our family has grilled hamburgers at a state park with another family.

"It isn't the great big pleasures that count the most; it's making a great deal out of the little ones."  ~Jean Webster

This weekend we hosted my parents and my nephew from Minnesota.  We don't get to see him very often, so it was definitely a treat to see the cousins hanging out together.  After church Sunday morning, we celebrated a friend's birthday with one of Sarah's delicious and beautiful cakes.  No matter how we offer hospitality in its various forms, this is my prayer (from "Every Moment Holy"):

"Meet us in the making of this meal, O Lord, and make of it something more than a mere nourishment for the body.  Make it the center of a sheltered space where grace freely flows.  Let the slow savoring of these foods give pause to those who will soon partake, prompting them to linger long at table, taking rest from the labors of the day, engaging in good conversation."

Friday, August 10, 2018

Shooting arrows...

Arriving at Mt. Nebo State Park always feels like we've come home.  No matter which cabin we choose, we have a restful place to lay our head, a safe sphere in which to make memories and laugh.

When we asked our kids what was important to them for closure and "one last time" before Sarah and Benjamin headed off to college and the rest of us headed back to the Solomon Islands, the resounding answer was to go back to Mt. Nebo.

So we found room in the budget and on the calendar.

We hit the trails.

And enjoyed the view.

Got a little bit silly, too.

The most important part of this trip to me was providing closure on a family of six and launching two college students and a family of four.  

A simple way to do that?  Utilizing the beautiful Every Moment Holy and the thoughtful prayer for students inside.  After the three oldest Choates got up early to watch the sunrise,

(my bedhead is much worse than Aaron's!) and drink our coffee,

the whole family gathered around the breakfast table outside and took turns reading the liturgy for students and scholars.  This is just a small portion:

"Give me a deepening knowledge of truth and a finer discernment of the ideas I encounter in my studies.  Guard my mind always against error, and guard also my heart against the temptation to compare my own performance to the work of my peers, and so to fall into either of the twin traps of shame or pride."

Even as we played dominoes and hiked more trails later in the morning, the words kept echoing as a blessing for my college kids...

"Grant instead that I might happily steward what scholarly gifts you have apportioned me, and that I might do so as means of preparing myself for service to you and to others, my identity drawn from your love and forgiveness, and not from my grades or accolades here."

It's time to draw back the bow and shoot...

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

A Singular Gift

"What I in my weakness see as another monotonous day in a string of days, God has given as a singular gift."  ~Tish Harrison Warren, "Liturgy of the Ordinary"

Oh, this sweet week with plenty of errands and very little routine after a summer of super busy.  I recently discovered "The Workers Prayer" by the Gettys, and it's been on repeat for several days now as the words percolate down into my heart and mind.  We have less than a week as a family of six, and last night God gave us the unexpected gift of rain and play.  

Rain is always a precious gift when we are in the village.  It fills our water tanks and give us refreshing coolness.  Often the kids go out and play and get soaked.  We always make hot chocolate (even in the heat and humidity of the tropics!) when it rains, and the whole event becomes special.  Last night brought back memories of village life.  The kids were giddy and ran outside to splash in the puddles.  They opened their mouths wide and drank in the rain.  And I ran inside to dig up my mama's hot chocolate recipe that has hardly been used since we came back to life in America where you can just turn on the faucet any time you want water.  I don't know what tomorrow holds, but I know it will be a singular gift from the Lord, and I plan to enjoy it to the fullest.

Mama's Hot Chocolate

1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
1/3 cup hot water
4 cups milk
dash salt
3/4 tsp vanilla 
(and any other flavoring you'd like!)

Mix sugar, cocoa, and salt in a saucepan; stir in water.  Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils.  Boil and stir constantly for two minutes.  Whisk in milk and heat through, but do not boil.  Remove from heat and add vanilla.  Our family likes to add mint extract as well.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

"To make a success of one's marriage, one must treat it as an adventure, with all the riches and difficulties that are involved in an adventure shared with another person." 
 ~Paul Tournier, "The Adventure of Living"

Being married to this guy is certainly an adventure.  We're working on our 22nd year of marriage and our 29th of being a couple.  So, when we got an Amazon gift card for our anniversary from dear friends, I found the book "Married and Still Loving It" and immediately bought it.  We're always looking for new "tools" in our marriage toolbox.

Monday, August 6, 2018

This weekend we made a flying trip to visit Aaron's dad and mom #2.  July is a month full of birthdays and anniversaries for the Choate family, and we always try to get together to celebrate.  But life got really crazy hectic for all of us in July, so the first weekend in August was the best we could do!  We're so grateful for flexible and hospitable family.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Herbs Gone Wild - Dill

My herbs are going to seed and making lovely flowers, but we are still enjoying the fresh flavors of this crazy herb abundance.  Our family is renewing visas for the Solomon Islands, and we've just finished the last physical exam and eye appointment.  One of the things we learned is that Aaron's cholesterol is high, so we're looking for ways to tailor our eating habits to his needs.  And using herbs is a bonus! (Both recipes adapted from "Taste of Home Diabetes Family Friendly Cookbook".)

Salmon with Lemon-Dill Butter
Serves two

2 salmon fillets (4 oz each)
5 teaspoons butter, melted
3/4 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
12 teaspoon snipped fresh dill

Place salmon skin side down on a broiler pan.  Combine the butter, lemon juice, lemon peel and dill.  Brush one-third of mixture over salmon.  Broil 3-4 inches from the heat for 7-9 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork, basting occasionally with remaining butter mixture.

My girls are used to really fresh fish when we live in the Solomon Islands, so both of them were a little bit iffy about trying salmon from a bag that we didn't have to clean ourselves.  They loved it.  And I loved the ease of preparing this fish.

Summer Vegetable Salad
Six Servings

1 cup fresh cauliflower
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup sliced red onion
1 cup halved grape tomatoes
1 cup chopped zucchini
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dill weed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon pepper

In a large bowl, combine the cauliflower, carrots, onion, tomatoes, and zucchini.  In a small bowl, whisk the remaining ingredients.  Pour over vegetables and toss to coat.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally.  Serve with a slotted spoon.

Friday, August 3, 2018

My little backyard raised bed did not produce much this summer, only this cute little purple pepper and a couple of orange "tequila sunrise peppers" you can see in the background.  We did enjoy some "blue cream berries tomatoes", but our big yellow stuffing tomatoes kept being stolen clean off the vine before they could ripen.  The lack of fruitfulness got me thinking about my life and about this quote:

If scripture teaches us anything, it is this:  God is always more concerned with the decision-maker than he is with the decision itself....For the believer wanting to know God's will for her life, the first question to pose is not "What should I do?" but "Who should I be?"  ~Jen Wilkin

Our family is about to experience some major transitions as the two older kids go off to college and Aaron begins traveling internationally.  Each day as we face multiple decisions, some seemingly insignificant and some that feel mammoth, I want the question to be, "Who do you want me to be, Lord?"  And that will bear sweet fruit.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Translation in Progress

This guy...I'm all heart eyes over him.  Aaron is the only one in the world who can read both the Lavukaleve on the left and the Greek on the right.  I love watching him get excited about getting God's Word in the heart language of our neighbors in the village.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018


Olivia passed her written driver's permit test with flying colors yesterday.  One of her goals was to get her restricted driver's license while we were back in America.  We now have our third teenage driver in the house!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Blanchard Springs Caverns

We took DJ to visit one of our favorite places in Arkansas:  Blanchard Springs Caverns.

Every time we visit, I'm blown away at God's creation hidden several hundred feet underground.

My camera can't capture the majesty and scope of these beautiful rock formations, and I'm always led to worship as I gaze around the massive spaces filled with beauty.

Because it was Sarah's birthday, I snuck in birthday plates and a tablecloth, and we enjoyed a picnic in the midst of even more beauty.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sweet Sabbath

Summer Sundays are made for going to church, cooking lunch in the crockpot (cool, easy, fast, and delicious), and enjoying beautiful flowers from the farmers' market.