Monday, November 11, 2019

Safe and Sound!

Hi, all! I'm running a little behind (computer and login issues), but I wanted to let you know that the Choates did make it to Marulaon late last week after a long, long, long trip on the Nutoli.

Here's the e-mail message that arrived from Aaron late Friday evening CST:

Hello from Marulaon,

The trip from SITAG to Marulaon house took a long time, for us at least.  The sea was nice and calm, and we are very thankful.  The experience on Nutoli was not too terrible. But not conducive for sleep.  We are getting out of all the boxes and remembering how to do things in the village.

I hope we can get our "thankful turkey" on the wall soon.  The best November I remember was the one we went all out in sharing our gratitude.  I am wanting to make the most of it here.

Thanks for your prayers and support.  Give us a little time and we will find a new rhythm.  We will get Joanna set up with the e-mail system soon too.

More later


More about their trip coming soon!
- Ann H. for the Choates

Wednesday, November 6, 2019


"Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.  Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.  Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced."  1 Chronicles 16:10-12

Nutoli has delayed until Thursday night.  Seas were beautifully calm tonight, and we're praying the same for tomorrow.  Although we were ready, the delay is a huge blessing.  It means we got to watch as Sarah and Benjamin performed on a student recital (yay for friends and technology!).  

They also carried the Solomon Islands flag and blew the conch shell for World Awareness Week at JBU, which brought back some sweet memories.  It means we were able to finish the FAFSA paperwork for financial aid next year.  It means we got to feed sweet old Blackie one more time.

This trip will be hard physically.  Not much sleep on a hard deck of a rolling ship.  We feel keenly the absence of 1/3 of Team Choate.  So, I'm focusing on the action verbs in the verses above...glory, look, seek, remember.

My big Bible is already packed, so I've been enjoying She Reads Truth "Give Thanks" plan in the mornings with my coffee:

Nehemiah worked from a place of trust and thanksgiving (Nehemiah 2:17-18).  He didn't know that one of the gates he rebuilt would mark the spot where Jesus would one day enter Jerusalem, riding on a donkey as the people shouted "Hosanna!" (Matthew 21:1-11).  We don't always know precisely what work we are called to do or for what purpose; I find that I rarely know.  But we do know we are called to do good work, and that we are called to continue our work faithfully.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Nutoli Update

As the time for our departure draws nearer, I find myself listening to Rene Clausen's "Prayer" over and over and over again.  With lyrics by Mother Teresa, this beautiful setting expresses my feelings of what my perfect attitude in the village (or anywhere) would be.  

"Help me spread your fragrance wherever I go.  Flood my soul with your spirit and life.  Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that my life may be only a radiance of Yours.  Shine through me and be so in me that every soul will feel Your presence in my soul.  Let them look up, look up and see no longer me but only You.  Amen."

Nutoli, our little copra tub, originally scheduled Tuesday night as the departure date, but yesterday when Aaron went to the wharf, no Nutoli.  So he called and discovered that the ship had gone to Auki and wouldn't be back in time for a Tuesday night trip.  Now we're scheduled (and I use that term very loosely) for a Wednesday night departure, which gives us just a little bit more breathing room.

We closed down the kitchen yesterday with baking for the ship and for our first breakfast in the village.  Today we cooked and drew on our eggs for the ship.  After spending all night on the rolling deck, I anticipate we will need a little bit of joy in our lives.

Just a reminder that we will be off the grid while we are in the village, so no internet.  For the first time, we'll be using satellite email, our only option for staying in touch.  Please remember to keep messages short and not to include any attachments since we'll be paying by how much data goes back and forth.  My kind friend, Ann, will keep the blog up and running for us as I can send her email updates.  Thanks for your prayers and encouragement!

Monday, November 4, 2019

Birthday Cake

Friday morning at tea time, a sweet friend asked me to make a birthday cake for her grandson who was turning one on Sunday.  In this culture, to say no would have shamed her and broken our relationship (even though I'm packing up my kitchen), so I said yes!  Plus, who doesn't like an excuse to bake and celebrate and share joy?!?

I asked her what time she wanted the cake on Sunday, and she responded with "Evening."  I felt comfortable enough asking for a clock time, so she said three o'clock.  Perfect.  Saturday afternoon, I took a packing break and baked the banana cake she requested.  I planned to stop there, but decided to go ahead and finish the job while I was on a roll.  I haven't leveled a cake in ages, and I desperately missed Sarah and her skills.

Thankfully, chocolate buttercream covered a multitude of flaws, and I felt no pressure for a Pinterest worthy presentation.  This was a labor of love.  And I'm glad I had it ready early.  Because Sunday afternoon at 1:30, my friend showed up for her cake.  Gotta love Solomon Time!

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Generosity and Goodbyes

In the next few days, five units (some families, a couple, and a lovely single) will be leaving SITAG.  Some will be going to the village, like us.  Some will be leaving the country.  That's a whole lot of transition and grief and change for our tiny group.  And in the midst of it all, we strive to love each other well and the ease the hard parts.

Right now, it sure feels like we don't have a lot to give.  We're grieving all over again the absence of our two college kids.  We've never been to Marulaon Village without them, and they are super pros at loading boxes and making the transition easier.

So we enjoy a rainy afternoon break of beading and hot chocolate.  We invite people over for simple meals to help ease transition.  We give what we have, even though it feels barely enough for ourselves.  And God stretches it.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Musical Surprises

In almost eleven years with SITAG, we've never seen anything like it.  A recital where every family with children participated in some way.  We heard scripture recitation, piano performances, and string pieces, too.  And our entire SITAG family showed up to cheer on each child and to bring food for a delicious potluck.

In part, all of this musical goodness was due to this lovely piano teacher who comes to SITAG each week to encourage her students.  I'm especially proud of Olivia, who isn't taking piano lessons but is continuing on her own and tackling progressively more difficult music.  In addition, she has just graduated to Suzuki Book 3 on her violin after only playing for 18 months.

This is just the beginning.   Each of these kids is only going to keep getting better, and it's going to be so much fun to watch.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Stuffed tomatoes

When Aaron or I go shopping for tomatoes at Honiara's beautiful Central Market, we find cute little grape or cherry tomatoes 99% of the time.  But every once in a while, I can find larger tomatoes.  These were about $0.25 USD each, and I knew exactly what to do with them - fill them with tuna salad.

This refreshing meal reminds me of our sweet sending church in Memphis.  The sweet ladies there introduced me to stuffed tomatoes at our Wednesday night fellowship meals.  So not only does this meal make my mouth happy, it makes my heart happy, too, as I remember all the times we shared meals with our church family.

This meal was extra special because we waited to eat until Aaron got home from the village.  He decided that the best stewardship of our time, energy, and money was to take a few hours to come back in a motor canoe instead of riding on a copra ship for two days.  The house immediately brightened when my tired, sweaty, and sun-kissed husband walked through the door and sat down at the table to catch up with his girls.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

While Daddy is away...

Sometimes we struggle when Aaron is gone.  He brings strength and stability to our home.  And much joy.  He's our problem solver and our steady rock and our comic relief.  Since he has been my best friend for thirty years, I miss sharing life with him when he is away.

So while he was gone, we continued to follow the routine we have established to steward our days well.  We still began our days with Jesus and coffee, made space for exercise, and chugged our way through school.

But we also took some intentional time to play.  We played many rounds of Phase 10 (which Olivia always won) and Dutch Blitz.  Olivia and her many helpers started renovating a treehouse that Benjamin built at SITAG.

We welcomed friends at the wharf and enjoyed riding in the back of the truck (I think this might be every Third Culture Kid's joy and delight!).

We listened to lots of praise and worship music (although the girls weren't sure what to think about my choice of the oldie but goodie Four Him Hymns) to help us keep our focus in the right place, and we pulled out the facemasks I had hidden away.  We laughed so hard that we disturbed our neighbors!

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Sweet Sabbath

"Imagine if you saw a marathon runner utterly exhausted and yet refusing every drink of water the organizers had provided along the way.  You'd think she was crazy.  God's grace is also seen in these refreshment stops that allow us time for reflection.  We leave behind our frantic pace of life for a time to recalibrate our speed, to get a perspective on where we are going and why.  We pause to remember God's role in our lives, to worship him for his all-sufficient grace, and to keep our eye on the ultimate horizon of eternity."  ~Shona Murray, "Refresh"

"Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."  Hebrews 12:1

I love this necklace.  The much needed reminder is three-fold:

1) Don't quit.  Endure.  Run the race with perseverance. Even when it's hard.

2) I don't run this race alone.  I have beautiful examples of people who have gone before me and lived with great faith.  In addition, I am surrounded by encouragers who are running alongside me.  These friends and fellow racers assist me to "remember God's role in our lives, to worship him for his all-sufficient grace, and to keep our eye on the ultimate horizon of eternity."

3) Because it is a life-long race, I need to approach it with a "slow and steady wins the race" mindset.  Allowing pauses to refresh so I can continue to run faithfully as God provides the strength and energy I so desperately need.

Friday, October 18, 2019

In which we distract ourselves with sushi

We basically invited ourselves over to make sushi with some of our SITAG friends.  But they chose the night, and it just happened to be Aaron's first night away.

"Real hospitality is more like the widow's mite than Solomon's purple robes.  It's the sharing of manna -- that ordinary miracle -- and the faith to believe we can love big with just a little."  
~Shannan Martin, "Falling Free"

So we were super grateful for the distraction, for the good food and good friends who are willing to share their kitchen and love big.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019


We're so grateful that, for the first time, our kids can take the PSAT here in Honiara.  Although a trip to Brisbane is fun, it's a huge drain on our time, energy, and finances.  So while Olivia filled in bubbles and exercised her amazing brain, Katherine and I drove just up the road and enjoyed a fancy-schmancy coffee shop.

Katherine finished school work and I finished my professional development needed to keep my teacher's license.  And while we were there, Aaron called to let me know he had made it to Yandina.  It took almost twelve hours.  We have traveled many times before on the good ol' Kosco (which is no longer running), and the trip to Yandina has taken five or six hours.  

While he's in the village, Aaron will be testing our satellite BGAN email system.  It's far more expensive than our old radio email system, but it should be more reliable, too.  I will definitely miss afternoon radio scheds and a chance to talk to the outside world every day.  But times, they are a-changing!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Today started with a sick little girl who handled it like a pro.  Yesterday she had a fever that spiked in the evening, so we equipped her with a thermometer, pen, paper, and meds.  In the wee hours of the morning, she woke up, took her temp, wrote it down, and took meds without disturbing anyone else in the house.  So school looked like this:

She was a trooper. Slow and steady on her school work, even through two negative malaria tests.  And in the other room, the sound of packing tape screeched as Aaron packed up and ready to leave on the Nutoli at 11:00 p.m.

We would never survive here without our SITAG colleagues.  They drove the truck with some of the cargo and the big gas cylinder.  The girls prefered to ride with them!  Aaron and I went down in another vehicle with the rest of the cargo.  Since this is the first time Aaron has traveled on a little wooden copra ship since 2009, he's not sure what to expect.  

Except that he knows it will be stinky.  My kids compare the smell of copra to this "Crime Stinks" video.  My girls really stepped up to the fill the gap left by their older siblings.  They untied and hoisted and carried and were super helpful.

"We can never realize the likeness of Christ by ourselves alone; we will never transform the world as individuals; we will never discover fullness of life in Christ if we stay solo.  We are distinct as people of God because we were made to live in dependence on the head and interdependently with the diverse parts of the body."  ~Julie Gorman

Friday, October 11, 2019

Village Prep

It's been a very long time since we've done village prep.  Our normal helping hands aren't here, they are exactly where they are supposed to be:  excelling in college.

Aaron started shopping with a little bit of a rocky start.  Several jars of peanut butter in the case expired several months ago.  The rat trap he bought didn't have all of the parts.  Just small things that show we're still a little bit rusty. It's been almost three years since the last time we prepared to move to the village.

But the flour buckets are labeled and in the deep freeze along with the other things that might harbor "friends" that we don't want to bring to our house.  And he's found a copra ship that will go out to our area.  It's been more than ten years since we had to use that form of transportation, but we don't have a lot of options right now.

So when the Nutoli sets sail next week (nobody is exactly sure when that may be), Aaron plans to be on it with some of our cargo for the village.  He'll tackle some electrical work on the house and some translation work with the team.  And when he returns, the fab four will "gird up our loins" and transition from life in Honiara to life in Marulaon Village.