Thursday, March 26, 2015


What do you do when you really need to practice dancing just one more time before the wedding reception?

And you need to wear your wedding dress to know exactly what the dancing will feel like?

But you don't want your groom to see you in your dress?

You blindfold him and dance blissfully together, knowing that in just a few days, two lives will become one.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wedding Preparations

We are hard at work getting ready for the big weekend!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Hand Holding

Twenty-five years ago today, Aaron boldly reached across and grabbed my hand while a group of friends watched a movie, and I've been holding his hand through thick and thin ever since!

How do I love his hands?  Let me count the Aaron's hands scrape and squeeze the best coconut cream in the whole village.  He also writes notes to friends in Lavukaleve with his hands.

Beautiful music pours out of his hands, and anyone in Aaron's circle of influence benefits from his servant hands.

Babies and children are soothed and cared for with his strong but gentle hands.  And his hands also know exactly how to rub the knots out of my tired back whenever I need him to.

Our family is strengthened by the fun and games initiated by his hands.  The lyrics to one of our favorite songs from the musical "Me and My Girl" says it well:

You require a lot of looking after.
That's one job in which I take a pride.
You can always make me smile, make my journey seem worthwhile.
Why not keep me always at your side to guide you?

Hold my hand
No matter what the weather,
Just you hold my hand,
We'll walk through life together,
For you'll find in me that kind of a friend
Who will see me through to the end.
So if you'll hold my hand
We both shall walk more steadily.
For understand, you hold my heart already in that dreamland:
Where I have planned that I shall hold your hand forever.

Monday, March 23, 2015

In the Land Down Under

Naomi's family is being so gracious, and Sarah and I are really enjoying being in the Melbourne area.  She's been trying on her lovely bridesmaid dress that Naomi's sister made,

and we're loving the cooler temperatures and the autumn leaves.  I actually want to wrap my hands around a hot coffee cup.

We almost always see kangaroos on our morning walks.  And we have to bundle when we exercise because it's chilly!  I've discovered that it is much, much easier to jog here than it is in the Solomon Islands.

Saturday afternoon, we attended a high tea at the church where Naomi will be married.  The bride, maid of honor, and bridesmaid looked stunning together!

I think my favorite part of the weekend was returning to Essendon Baptist Community Church on Sunday morning.  Singing in English and listening to God's Word being preached in English contrasted sharply with last Sunday in Marulaon where I heard mostly Lavukaleve.  I was reminded of why our family is serving in the Solomon Islands as I soaked up worship in my heart language.

Thursday, March 19

Overheard in the Brisbane airport, "Mama!  We're in Australia!"
Sarah and I are in the Melbourne area for the next couple of weeks.  Sarah will be a bridesmaid for the lovely Naomi's wedding.  Naomi lived with us for several months in 2011 and feels like part of the Choate family.

Wednesday, March 18

Last night's trip went so smoothly, thanks for all of the prayers offered up on our behalf!  My friends Kiko and Grace Delight sat visiting with me for almost an hour waiting for the ship to come.  They were both bundled up in long sleeves and wrapped in lavalavas, and when they walked up, Kiko asked me, "Aren't you cold?"  I laughed as I told her that it was the first time all day that I hadn't been hot!  The shipped chugged around the corner of our island just before midnight, and friends helped us load up the two motor canoes to take us out to the Kosco.  The phosphorescence in the water was beautiful!  We soon found places for our things and wedged ourselves into empty spaces to try and get some rest.  By 8:00 this morning, we were up at SITAG!
Yesterday, the men of Marulaon began working on the covered porch for the church.  This is a project for which they've been raising money for a very long time. 

My amazing friend, Gayly, has been raising money to buy books for Fly Harbour Primary School, and our friend Leonard has made a bookshelf to hold some of those books.  He's a great carpenter, and we're excited about being able to support him and his family through buying a sturdy, beautiful bookshelf.
Sweet Eta decided that we needed to take back a big back of sweet Marulaon oranges to share with our SITAG family. 

So Benjamin climbed way up in their tree (all fruit and nut trees are owned and passed down as an inheritance)
and wielded a bamboo pole to knock the oranges down to the girls waiting below.  I think he may have scared some of his aunties who were watching him swing around on the branches, but he did a great job and made wise choices.

Watching them was almost like participating in a video game.  Can you see the orange that is about to fall into Olivia's hands?

Extra points for not letting it hit the ground!

Catching oranges was such a fun way to spend an hour or two with friends, especially since we don't know when we will see them next.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Tuesday, March 17

While talking on the radio with SITAG today, I noticed the light streaming through the kitchen window onto the pineapple Sarah had gotten from our garden.  This is a very normal "still life" in our kitchen in Marulaon - papayas and pineapples laying on the cabinet waiting to be piled in the baskets.

Last night, our precious neighbors had a small pot-luck for us.  Once again, I was really glad we brought two kilos of coconut rice and a big pot of milked pumpkin and pumpkin greens, because the food went fast!  Chief Hensy made a very moving speech.  When people make speeches, they always say nice things about the person, and half of the time I wonder if those things are really true.  But Hensy gave example after example of why this community loves our family.  I did really well and didn't boohoo all over the place!  Hensy also made very clear that this wasn't a farewell feast but only a small party because we weren't going back to America for good.  We were so glad that he made that clear.  What a sweet time of fellowship and dancing and singing together.  I tried to soak up every moment and sear it into my brain.

Today was the day the kids have been waiting for - measuring day!

Katherine, Olivia, and Benjamin have all grown about 1 1/2 inches in the last four months.  I'm so thankful for healthy, strong, growing kids.

Benjamin has almost caught up with me, and he hopes that by the time I return from my trip to Australia, he will have passed me.  I assured him that I could still block him out on the basketball court even if he was taller than I was.  Sarah has only grown about 3/8 of an inch in the last four months, so she's winding down.
Tonight, we expect the ship to arrive around 11:00, which puts us into Honiara around dawn tomorrow morning.  The skies cleared out yesterday, and the sea has been calm all day.  Thanks to Aaron's hard work and organization, I think we are ready to go once we clean out the fridge and finish off the leftovers!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Sunday, March 15

I love Sunday afternoons.  After we've played a family game and cleaned up lunch, it's time to get outside and hang out with our amazing neighbors.  And after all of the rain we've had in the last week, today was really the first day that walking around the village and staying dry was possible.

I found this sweet bunch of cousins pretending to cook soup in a coconut shell.  Sylvia had recently lost her front tooth, so she was extra cute.  Notice how expertly she is cutting up the hibiscus flowers to go in the soup.  Little ones learn how to handle knives very early here.

I moseyed on over to Margaret Rasol's house and visited with her while my kids played nearby.  Our village is divided into three sections, and the Choate kids go play in a different section every day.

Olivia and Mosta (also known as "Tex" or Hebrews because I shared a text from Hebrews with his grandmother, Margaret Rasol, just before he was born) have a special bond.   
And these three musketeers have grown up quite a bit since April 2012.
As we near the end of our stay in Marulaon, we are getting the usual requests for things like ibuprofen, thread, band-aids, yarn, antifungal cream, soap, and laundry detergent.  So, much of my afternoon was spent running up to the house to grab something for a friend.  Somebody even asked us for one of our rat proof buckets, but I had to say no to that request.  But I did get our rat trap back so another friend could borrow it while we are away.
This little critter on our front bamboo fence was much cuter than a rat as he posed for me to take his picture.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Wednesday, March 11

Margaret Rasol showed up this morning with six lovely tuna.  I had asked her to talk to her husband about doing some fishing for us since I wanted to try cooking one of Eta's recipes.  Since our weather has been so windy and rainy on the fringes of this tropical storm system, I never anticipated fish showing up so soon!  Eta was thrilled when I walked over to her kitchen and asked her if she was free this afternoon for a cooking demonstration. 
After school, Sarah, Benjamin, and I took down firewood and ingredients to fry up some yummy tuna.  I slipped on the way down the hill and fell, but I kept the basket from spilling out all of our goodies.  I was really thankful the rain let up long enough for us to get together.  It's been raining buckets lately.  Eta cleaned the fish effortlessly, and as she gripped the gills and pulled in one quick, graceful motion, she also kept out the liver from each fish and handed it to a giddy little girl named Maja.

Maja and her friends took dried spines of coconut leaves and stuck them in each little fish liver to roast it over the coals.  They guarded their prizes jealously and ate them while they were still a little bit too hot, burning their tongues in the process.

Eta cut up the fish, and we marinated the pieces in soy sauce, powdered ginger, and curry.  Eta's recipe didn't say how long to let them sit in the marinade, and nobody really wanted to wait very long before we started cooking.  So before too long, Sarah and I took turns battering them using powdered egg and breadcrumbs.  Our big iron skillet came in handy as we chopped up some onions and tossed them in to fry alongside the pieces of tuna,.

We gathered quite a crowd as the aroma of the cooking fish began to waft around the village, and we had plenty of fish for everybody to get a little taste.  Our evaluation of the recipe?  We decided to mix up the egg powder to a thicker consistency next time, but other than that, the judges overwhelmingly decided in favor of "au hobea!" -- good eating!