Thursday, June 30, 2016

Science, broccoli, crochet, and other exciting things...

"I search in skinny limbs and freckled noses and tangled hair, but my babies are gone.  They have been replaced with children who need to reintroduce themselves almost every day, so quickly do they change and grow."  ~Christie Purifoy

Olivia's science took a big jump this school year.  She's moved up into the Apologia Science series and absolutely loves it.  Her most recent experiment involved floating objects in different layers of oil and water, and Olivia tried some items of her own choosing in addition to objects the book suggested.  I like it when my kids get excited about learning!

Sarah and Olivia have been working on a crochet project during read-aloud all through our time in the village, and they are almost finished!  They have exercised their creativity and spatial skills on this project, the first of its kind for my blossoming women.  Soon, we'll mail it off so it can nestle a little one under much love.

We often remember certain books in conjunction with what project was completed during that shared time, or sometimes we remember the miles that sped along while we listen to a book when we are driving in America.  We get to read "Great Expectations" later this year, and I am already working on downloading a brilliant British reader so I don't have to try and wade through this book with my made up accents.
Something that makes my heart melt?  That my teenage son loves his smallest sister enough to play Lego with her and to share in the creativity together.  Benjamin is a tactile learner and remembers best when his hands are active, so the chink of Lego blocks often accompanies the sound of my voice reading aloud.

Another thing I love?  The way that school often dissolves into laughter in our home.  When we chose to school at home thirteen years ago, we had no idea that we would find the journey so joyful.  Who knew that geography would be so funny?

Or that a hallway could provide so much fun and exercise and giggles?  God knew I needed all this goodness to help continue the continuous refilling process.  It's like the widow's oil, although I seem to pour out every drop, the Lord continues to renew and refresh in unexpected places.  Sometimes, I feel like He doesn't refill quickly enough, but I'm satisfied with His perfect timing.  Wednesday morning when I drove into town, I was so excited to find a fresh shipment of broccoli!  So we pulled out one of our favorite recipes, Peanut Ginger Pasta, as a nourishing way to end the day.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The home in my head

We began a new school year last week.  I have a 12th, 11th, 8th, and 3rd grader living under my roof.  We are reading "Red Sails to Capri" for the last time as a school read-aloud.  Home is constantly changing physical locations, back and forth.  The pace in Honiara is busy, as Aaron attends the Culture meets Scripture workshop everyday and still prepares to go back out to the Russells this coming Sunday.  Home doesn't always look like I thought I would when Aaron and I began this journey together years ago.

I recently stumbled upon a blog that fits me so well:  Grace Table.  And while reading one of the recent articles, I found myself nodding in agreement over and over again. 
"And I desired the home in my head more than the home Jesus was making for me....Home is learning to live in our own skin, knowing the fullness of our humanity, both spirit and flesh and dealing compassionately with both.  It's a posture that invites God to pull up a seat at the table of heart and take every desire of ours and turn them into something holy and right and useful for the kingdom.  Home is making space for the Holy Spirit to blow fresh and wild and free in our soul, stirring up the greatest, God-given longing found there which is Jesus."  ~Lori Harris

Our home this week has been full of eight-year-old snuggles and teenagers who are looking ahead to launching into the world.  Home looks like Sarah's onion bread, which made a delicious tuna salad sandwich, a perfect complement to a Sunday afternoon Sabbath rest.  Home is full school days for this tired mama who loves her early morning walking buddies and the refreshment they bring.  And tonight, our home will welcome a new friend, a delightful math teacher from California who is here to help with the Culture meets Scripture workshop.  And all of it points us to deal compassionately with our spirits and our flesh, to nourish both in whatever space we currently call home as we long for more of Jesus in our lives.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Culture Meets Scripture Workshop

Jo Shetler and her team are leading a "Culture meets Scripture" workshop for two weeks here at SITAG.  They invited spouses and kids to attend two sessions full of stories and pictures, so we have jumped at the chance to soak up time with "Aunt Jo".  Aaron says the workshop is touching on some very important topics and giving him lots to think about.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Quick Prayer Request...

For years, we've been looking ahead and talking with the international school here in Honiara about offering American standardized tests like the SAT, ACT, and PSAT.  Our director has been very supportive and helpful, too, by continuing the conversation with the school when we are in the village.  The principal is pursuing the goal of offering the tests, but he still has several hurdles to overcome.  And now it is time for our kids to take those tests. 
We are leaning towards flying to Brisbane for both the SAT and the PSAT in October.  I've been able to find one school in Brisbane that offers the SAT and one school that offers the PSAT.  Both schools are willing for our students to come to Brisbane, but we still have a lot of details to work out.  Will you please pray for God to give us wisdom and for Him to provide the money to cover these unexpected expenses?

Friday, June 24, 2016

Fathers Day Food - Spaghetti with Chicken and Fresh Tomatoes

We arrived in Honiara last week just in time to settle in and celebrate Father's Day.  Our family celebrates best with food, and in town, our options are more bountiful.  Aaron said it didn't matter to him how we celebrated or what recipes we presented him on his special day, so we tried a new one:  Spaghetti with Chicken and Fresh Tomatoes from "The Fannie Farmer Cookbook".

Benjamin and Olivia helped me with lunch prep while everybody sang along with Rossini's  "La Cenerentola".  The chair scene is our absolute favorite. 
Spaghetti with Chicken and Fresh Tomatoes
Severs four (but we found it was enough for all six of us with leftovers)
12 ounces spaghetti
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves of garlic
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 pound chicken breast halves, in 1-inch pieces
3 cups fresh tomatoes, in chunks
1 cup medium pitted black olives
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup basil leaves, chopped

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the spaghetti until just tender, about 8-10 minutes.  While the spaghetti is cooking make the sauce.  Put the oil, garlic, and onion in a skillet over medium-high heat and saute until the onion is soft, but not browned. 
Joining hands to thank the Lord for good food and an amazing father
Add the chicken meat and cook 3-4 minutes, stirring often.  Add the tomatoes, olives, and chicken broth and simmer for 3 minutes, then add the basil.  Drain the spaghetti, return to the pot, and toss with the chicken mixture.  (Our family really enjoyed the leftovers cold the next day!)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Word Came with Power

Our family enjoyed a special treat last weekend.  Jo Shetler and Amy West arrived in Honiara to lead the "Culture meets Scripture" workshop.  Since one of our directors used to work in the Philippines, they were already good friends with these sweet ladies. 
We got to tag along and meet "Aunt Jo" and "Aunt Amy" for the first time as our girls presented them with fresh flower necklaces.

If you haven't read Jo's book, "The Word Came With Power", I highly recommend you find it.

Aaron will be attending the workshop through the end of next week.  Two of his favorite things are anthropology and God's Word, and this course combines both of those things.

Our family is really looking forward to hanging out with these ladies (and with their assistant who arrived on a later flight).

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

June 15 - From Marulaon back to Honiara


Our alarm went off at five o'clock this morning, and we woke up Benjamin at his request.  We found that the rat had totally ignored the trap Aaron had set with nice fresh fruit in it.  Instead, our local rodent chewed through a container to get to the pumpkin seeds I was saving to plant when we came back!

We started pulling sheets off the beds, and as soon as it was light outside, we began moving our boxes down to the shore to await the motor canoe.  Several of the village kids helped us with some of the lighter pieces of cargo.

Both yesterday morning and this morning, we noticed lots of activity around breakfast time in the tall bush apple tree right in front of our house.  Loaded with white blossoms, the tree was center court for catching a flying fox, and this morning the trap was successful.  I kept hearing the adults call out to the kids, "Bakeil mi?" (Is it big?)  And the kids always responded, "Ire ke!" (Yes, indeed!)

I wish we could have stuck around to see how my neighbors cook this flying mammal.  Evidently, lekofat (flying fox) is a delicacy.

Once we had everything down on the beach, we went back up to the house to enjoy playing cards.  Around eight o'clock, Katherine and I were about to stomp everybody and win the round when we heard the ship's engine chugging around the corner of our island.  We all went into "exit mode".  The kids are so great.  Everybody knows the routine now, who gets what bag, and just how long the loading is going to take.  Aaron went in the first motor canoe load with most of our cargo, then the rest of us followed with the personal bags like the life jackets and computers.  We also carried a bag full of cassava pudding from my friend, Sylvester, to her son who is staying in Honiara.

Then it was our turn to climb up the rope ladder while our friends held the boat still below us and Aaron offered his hand above us.

We finally pulled out of Marulaon a little bit after nine.  Some kind people made space in our favorite area in the front of the ship so we wouldn't have to breathe the diesel fumes.  The kids each found a little space and settled in for the long ride back to Honiara.

When we arrived in Yandina, Benjamin moved to sit and guard some of our boxes, Sarah and Aaron went ashore to see what they could find at market and to try and locate our petrol can from Aaron and Henk's infamous trip in April.

After a couple of hours waiting in Yandina, playing a complete game of Phase 10, and watching the loading innumerable of bags of copra, we finally set off for Honara.  The ocean got rolling and so did my belly.  The crystallized ginger our SITAG director sent in a care package helped a little bit.
We enjoyed the muted sunset, and darkness fell before we finally pulled into Honiara and had to wait a while for a spot to open up at the wharf.  We were so grateful to see our SITAG colleagues with the truck and even more grateful for the hot pizza that awaited us with more SITAG colleagues back on top of Tanuli Ridge.
Thanks for the prayers that so many of you offered up on our behalf.  We couldn't have asked for a smoother trip and a great beginning for our next stay in Honiara!

Friday, June 17, 2016

June 14

Tuesday, June 14
One of the perks to running around the village like a chicken with my head cut off is getting to chat with people! Most days, I'm the "school marm" stuck in the house, making sure that the Choate Academy runs smoothly and that the students are all progressing on schedule. But yesterday afternoon and today, I've had opportunities to sit down and talk about spiritual things while I've been sharing the leftover dry goods from our pantry.

On my adventures around the metropolis of Marulaon, I found one of the grandmothers of the village making brooms to sell at the church's big fundraiser on Friday. We're disappointed that we'll be gone and won't get to participate. But, I also discovered Chief Hensy and his father-in-law Walter making “his and hers” paddles for the fundraiser. I asked if it was appropriate to go ahead and buy them, and at the affirmative answer, I went home and grabbed the money.
Hensy's daughter, Annie, is one of my buddies. She wanted me to take her picture, too, as she ate her cracker and watched her daddy work. I think we'll be ready when the ship comes early tomorrow morning. We've lined up transport, and Kiko has volunteered to come help us move our cargo down to the shore tonight. Aaron still has some loose ends to tie up with the translation project, and he is working diligently as I type. We appreciate prayers as we transition back to Honiara for a few weeks full of meetings and the beginning of a new school year!

June 13

Monday, June 13
We are now in full-fledged packing mode. And things are not going according to plan! 


It's been a rough day with several unexpected visitors, lots of requests for things (laundry detergent, yarn, popcorn, thread) as people realize we are leaving, e-mail and electrical malfunctions, on top of the normal difficult transition of moving. But I'm so proud of my amazing kids. They are working hard to control any unkind words that might want to pop out of their mouths, and they are pitching in to do the work when Aaron is unavailable because of the unexpected business meetings.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

June 12

Sunday, June 12
Sweet Sabbath
Spend much time in prayer. Spend even a greater time in holy adoration. Read the Scriptures earnestly and consistently. Watch your life carefully. Live near God. Take the best examples for your models. Let your speech be the fragrance of heaven. Let your heart be perfumed with affection for lost souls. Live so that everyone will know that you have been with Jesus.” 
 ~Charles Spurgeon

When Aaron and I settle into the morning routine, I sit on the porch and he sits at the dining room table. We're only separated by a few feet and a screen, so sometimes we chat a little and share a little bit about what we are reading or a thought that has popped up. This morning, Aaron teased me about watching the nature channel. I couldn't help it. In front of me was this vast panorama of God's creation, just singing His praises.

The mango trees have exploded in baby leaves that start with a blush of red and then deepen as they grow bigger. That's so different from my North American world where leaves start off green and only turn red at the end of their lives!
Little worms were dangling from the mango tree just a few feet in front of the porch, birds were enjoying the feast of insects that were hovering around the newly blossoming mogea (bush apple) tree just down the hill, and the current was making little ripples in the ocean as the tide went out.
Three little green worms wiggled their way up their thin strand connected to the mango leaves, then all of a sudden, a moth swooped down and struggled to grab one of the worms for breakfast. The moth won.

But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.” Psalm 69:16-17

June 11

Saturday, June 11
Aaron, Sarah, Benjamin, and Olivia went to Karumalun last night around 5:00 to participate in the festivities kicking off St. Barnabas day. The Sunday School kids from Marulaon had prepared some “action choruses” to join the other dramas, singing, and dancing during the evening. Unfortunately, the young ladies in charge didn't come to Karumalun until close to the end of the evening, so the Marulaon kids didn't get to participate, but our crew still had a great time. Sarah helped parcel some of the rice in leaves to distribute for supper. Katherine and I stayed home, read books, and delivered a birthday cake I made for my friend, Kiko. Her birthday is at the end of June, but we will be back in Honiara. She loves peanut butter, so we made a peanut butter icing. Our dancing crew returned home around midnight to catch a few hours of sleep before our early departure.

We were down at Kiko's house around 6:15 because we were going across to Karumalun in her brother's boat. By the time her family was ready to come, dark clouds were gathering, and we could see rain on the mountains of the mainland. A brilliant rainbow soon grew into a double rainbow
as we putted across the water. Pictures can't even come close to capturing the beauty out here.
Church was over around 9:00, then we began the cross-cultural puzzle of waiting and visiting and figuring out where each member of our family fit within that puzzle. I had brought a jar of popcorn to give to Janet, Ezekiel's wife, as a thank you for always loaning her husband out to the work of Bible translation. I didn't realize she didn't know how to cook it, so I gave a quick pantomime of how to prepare the yummy treat. Then she told me she would have to buy oil! Chalk it up to a cultural blunder on my part. I walked away with two hands of bananas after I watched one of her sons cut them off the tree.
As soon as I returned to the rest of the family, I sent Benjamin and his small entourage of boys to buy oil to take over to Janet's house. We found a little house where we could sit and visit with some of our friends from Marulaon. The owner very graciously offered her bed to me so I could lie down and rest my back (which has really been giving me problems lately) while we chatted.
After more than an hour, it was time for the feasting. I had high hopes of getting out of the “big man” table, but as often as I declined, somebody else came forward with “Inu aira ru!” (You're a big woman!) So I finally accepted.
The rest of the day was filled with yummy local food, good opportunities to visit, and hours of dancing. I even got to teach my friend, Kiko, about taking “selfies”!
I was super proud of my girls who had practiced and worked hard to learn several of the local dances. The footwork looks fancy. It's second nature for our neighbors, but hard work and lots of concentration for those of us who haven't grown up dancing from the time we could walk.
Our canoe load decided to leave before the dancing was finished. We could barely keep our eyes open, even though it was only late in the afternoon. We arrived home laden with leftover food and chugged lots of water to help us rehydrate after the long day. After attending evening prayer and getting everybody through the shower, we were ready to crash early and get a good night's sleep.

June 10

Friday, June 10

Thanks so much to everybody who has been praying for a good balance of sun and rain. God is answering your prayers! We've been getting a great mix – rain for the rain tanks and gardens and sunshine for the solar panels and to inhibit the growth of the mold and mildew that is so prevalent here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Back in Honiara...

We arrived safely back in Honiara last night.  Thanks so much to all of you who prayed for our ship ride - we certainly don't take smooth trips for granted! 

Once again, I'm especially grateful to my friend Ann who keeps the blog up and running for us while we are in the village with no internet (only the cantankerous radio!).  I'll go back and insert all of the missing pictures, then I'll catch up on the posting in between unpacking boxes and washing the village sheets and towels...

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Lovely Village E-mail

Happy Tuesday afternoon, friends of the Choates!
Thank you all so much for continuing to pray for and interact with the Choates while they’re in the village. Their time in Marulaon is coming to an end, and they’ll be heading back to Honiara very soon. But, over the past few weeks, the e-mails that have made it through the village e-mail system have been a bit scattered. Many messages are lost in the coming and going, and there are gaps. So, thanks for your patience and graciousness, knowing that a lack of response might just mean there’s an e-mail (or two or three) missing along the way.
So, if you haven’t heard from this sweet family in a while, don’t give up! Keep on messaging them and encouraging them along the way, and know that connection with you means the world to them.
Thanks for praying and keeping this precious family encouraged. It’s making a difference!
~ Ann H.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Thursday, June 9

Our girls spent this afternoon with friends, all working together to prepare their dancing sticks for this weekend.
IMG_3105 - Copy (240x360)
After they went into the bush to cut the sticks from a mausa tree, then they cut spiral strips into the bark. They slowly peeled away one spiral, leaving the clean white stick underneath.
The girls held the sticks in the fire to blacken the area where the bark had been peeled away, then the rest of the bark was removed, leaving a really nice black and white spiral running up and down the stick.
They had a great time hanging out with their friends, holding babies, and preparing for the festivities this weekend!