Friday, January 26, 2018


Immigration is a hot topic in America right now.  I'm especially grateful for the adventurous souls who faced a long, tiring trip across the ocean to start over again in a new culture, because my Papaw Rip Schalchlin was the son of Swiss immigrants.

Before Christmas, when we began to read about Ellis Island and the many immigrants who funneled through that port, I knew I wanted to include books about immigration then and now in our book basket.  We have some friends in Tennessee and in Arkansas who have recently completed the process to become American citizens - it's hard work - and we are super excited for them.

The American Wei by Marion Hess Pomeranc
Fiona's Lace by Patricia Polacco

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleischman
The Dream Jar by Bonnie Pryor
The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco

Monday, January 22, 2018

Just before the bell rang on Friday afternoon, one of my students in the 9th grade told me, "We really don't deserve you, Mrs. Choate."  Of course, I had just given them Oreos to solidify ABA musical form in their minds.  It was easy for me to quickly reply, "Then we're even.  Because I don't deserve you guys."  I get to work with some amazing orchestra students, and I couldn't ask for better colleagues.

From Velvet Ashes (one of my favorite cross-cultural ministry blogs):
"Will following Jesus lead me to times of weariness? Absolutely. We see that in the life of Jesus Himself, in His disciples, and in kingdom workers throughout history. But there’s no heavy guilt to bear with the weariness. Instead the weariness becomes an invitation to retreat into His sweet and sustaining rest.  We get to follow his pattern of serve and retreat, serve and retreat."

Our family is entering another season of heavier serving.  More concerts.  More churches.  More busy weekends.  More of a need to "retreat into His sweet and sustaining rest".  What a sweet gift.

Saturday, January 20, 2018


Twenty-one years ago this weekend, Aaron asked me to marry him.  Certainly worth celebrating!  Our children know that Rocky Road ice cream played a large part in the proposal story.

When we are in America, we have so many more options to celebrate our romance, and it also culturally appropriate to do so here!  Last weekend, we snuck away to Devil's Den State Park for some much needed time to pray, plan, and play.

One of the books that we took along to spark discussion was "Things I Wish I'd Known Before We Got Married" by Gary Chapman.  We picked up this book in May from friends who did much of our pre-marital counseling, but we are just now getting around to reading and discussing it.

I'm so grateful for the unexpected Christmas bonus from my school district that made this weekend possible, and I'm reminded over and over and over again that investing in marriage reaps huge benefits.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

These are a few of my favorite things...

Snow days.  Even when being homeschooled means you still have to do school.  Because the days are snugglier.

The Read-Aloud Revival blog and podcasts.  

The friend who gave me the mug and the white chocolate mocha tea to go in it.

 Science experiments.

Joulies.  A gift from a precious friend.  To keep my coffee good and hot just a little bit longer.

Book lovers' apparel from Out of Print.  These "Where the Wild Things Are" socks are so fun!

A young man who is diligently preparing for four AP tests.

Monday, January 15, 2018


"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being...Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!  Amen." 
Ephesians 3:16, 20, 21 NIV

"...we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.  We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." 
2 Thes. 1:11-12 NIV

"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." 
1 Peter 1:3 NIV

I use weights to make my muscles more powerful.  I read books and exchange thoughts with others to keep my mind powerful.  When it comes to summoning power for my spirit, I'm not on my own.  In fact, there is nothing I can do.  For years, I've prayed the above verses for my husband and kids, but in this unexpected season, I'm desperately praying them for myself.

Power.  For our neighbors in Marulaon village, the Lavukaleve word is "kia(m)".  If I give them ibuprofen, they comment on how powerful it is.  They believe that leaves like roroyo have power.

The book I'm currently enjoying

I've started taking some exercise classes at the gym.  I have ZERO coordination and submit myself to be a learner.  My ineptitude as I flail my arms and legs has reminded me of what my students in orchestra must feel from time to time as I throw new, harder tasks at them.  

"True humility can bear to see its own utter weakness and foolishness revealed, because it never expected anything from itself, and knows that its only hope and expectation must be in God."  ~Hannah Whitall Smith

Feeling powerless is so easy right now.  Our desire is for Aaron to go back to the Solomon Islands to make month long solo trips to work with the Lavukal translation team.  But God has us in a waiting period until our monthly financial support has reached 100%.  I face classrooms of lovely orchestra students every day and beg the Lord for the power to be the kind of teacher they need and for Him to shine through me somehow.  This is not where we thought we would be as 2018 begins.  But as we walk in obedience and our "utter weakness and foolishness" is revealed, God's power sustains us.  

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Last bits of Christmas

In the chaos of starting back to school last week, I totally forgot to record the sweet memories of our last family Christmas gathering. We are so blessed to still have lots of family in our hometown, and it was a short drive for us to go visit Nahna (Aaron’s mom) and Papa after some of the hustle and bustle had slowed down. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Book Basket

We're moving through American history at such a rapid pace with Olivia and Katherine!  There never seems to be enough time to learn all of the things that I want to discover.  As I type, I can hear Benjamin practicing his All-State audition excerpts and Katherine working through her piano book.  Engaging in lifelong learning brings our family much joy!

Here is a list of some of the books (by some of my favorite authors!) that we're enjoying as we learn about the Chicago's Worlds' Fair and the Statue of Liberty and people who were living at the end of the 19th century:

"The Story of the Statue of Liberty" by Betsy and Giulio Maestro
"Mr. Ferris and His Wheel" by Kathryn Gibbs Davis
"The Copper Lady" by Alice and Kent Ross
"Naming Liberty" by Jane Yolen
"Liberty!" by Allan Drummond
"A Picnic in October" by Eve Bunting

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

I've had my eye on something like this Bird Songs Bible for years.  So when it went on sale and I had gift cards burning a hole in my pocket, I snagged this gorgeous tome for our family.  I love the warm colors, the detailed paintings, the maps, and especially the bird songs.  Technically, I bought it for school.  For the kids, of course.  But I'm already giddy as I push in numbers to hear the different bird calls!

Monday, January 8, 2018

Mouse in the house

Living overseas, we have all sorts of critters that come in and out of the house.  I don't love sharing the house with them, but it's just part of life.  When the weather turned colder here in Arkansas a few weeks ago, we began to suspect that a furry visitor had found a nice "bed & breakfast" somewhere in our kitchen. 

My fearless kids soon found the rodent and captured it for release in a brush pile by our back fence.  The next evening, a mouse looking VERY much like this one found its way into our home again.  Once again, our rodent hunters captured it.  But before they released it to the brush pile, they took a little gold spray paint (Christmas crafts!) and marked the mouse's tail.  Just in case.  Sure enough, the next morning, a little mouse with a gold rear end streaked through the kitchen.  This time, the head mouse hunter, Aaron, took the persistent and clever animal far away to the ball park.  And we have yet to see a mouse in the house since.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Christmas decorations are all cleaned up.  School started back last week for both my homeschoolers and my public school orchestra students.  So I'm taking a few quiet moments this afternoon to look back at how we invested our time and energy during our Christmas break.  

Every year (especially when we have a library nearby!), we discover new picture books to augment our collection.  This year we finally bought a springerle mold and made yummy cookies like the family in "The Gift of the Christmas Cookie"

We also discovered the lovely book "They Followed a Bright Star".  I'll let the notes on the inside of the book jacket tell the story: 

"Joan Alavedra wrote a poem in Barcelona in 1943 for his five-year-old daughter when she asked for a poem from the point of view of each of the figures in the crèche.  Since the work was composed in an atmostphere of war, he ended it with a hymn to peace and love.  Later the cellist Pablo Casals set the poem to music and it became the oratorio El Pessebre (The Manger)."

My favorite non-fiction find for the Christmas season was "Christmas Farm", a sweet book full of information about farming Christmas trees woven around a young boy and his grandmotherly neighbor.

For Epiphany, Sarah decided to make a non-traditional German chocolate cake, and Katherine found the hidden ceramic baby Jesus.  We watched "Amahl and the Night Visitors" and sang along.  I admit, I cry every time the mama and Amahl sing the goodbye duet at the end.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Christmas with the Williams

Once again, we got to spend some time with far-away family.  Usually WE are the far-away family, but this year we got to share some of the joy of hosting some really fun people.

I mean, who else would cuddle a ball python and look so cute doing it, besides my spunky little sister?!?

My beautiful maternal grandmother joined us for a little while.

These are five of her eight great-grandchildren.  She even has a great-great-grandchild on another branch of the family tree!

My parents gave their grandchildren Nerf guns.  I had requested little one-shot guns for our kids and slightly larger three-shot guns for Aaron and me.  Instead, we each got six-shot powerhouses that easily put the bullets across the street.  We'll be picking up brightly colored Nerf bullets for days.

Of my parents' six children, four could gather in Arkansas this time.  I'm so grateful for my siblings who took the time, energy, and money to come together.  And I sure missed the two brothers who were absent.

My other grandmother also made space in her day to come to my parents' house.  Aaron immediately bedecked her with his Steelers cap.  All of her five great-grandchildren were under the same roof with her, but somehow we missed taking the photographic evidence.

My parents with all of their grandchildren.

My sister closest in age to me and her good-looking family.

My youngest sister and her hubby.

And the newest addition to our family, my brother is getting married in April!  We're super excited to be adding another Williams to this wild and crazy crew.

My little sisters.  Beautiful, intelligent, and talented ladies.

We challenged each other at foosball, we ate lots of good food (including our traditional stop at Stoby's), we talked a LOT, and we tried out brass mouthpieces to find the best fit.  Because isn't every family full of musicians?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Christmas Day

Quiet.  Slow.  Worshipful.  Playful.  Delicious. 

Our Christmas Day at home with just the six of us.  Learning a new hymn.  Eating our traditional gingerbread waffles.

"The Bible is not alien to the world of food.  In fact, feeding the hungry with good food is one of the primary ways that the Bible talks about the gospel of the redeeming grace of Jesus....But the Bible is even more direct when it comes to our spiritual hunger.  It tells us that Jesus is the only food that will ever satisfy the needy, groaning hunger that is in the heart of every one of us." 
~Paul David Tripp, "Come, Let Us Adore Him"

Gingerbread Waffles
Serves 4-5

1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp shortening
1 beaten egg
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1 1/4 cup sifted flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup hot water

Cream butter and sugar.  Add egg and molasses and continue beating.  Stir together dry ingredients, then add to molasses mixture.  Add hot water and beat until smooth.  Cook according to waffle iron directions and serve with sweetened whipped cream on top.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Christmas with Schalchlins

The last Sunday in Advent, our crew drove down to attend church and eat lunch with my aunt, uncle, and six of their seven children.

We just love this side of our extended family.  As more family and friends arrived, our ages and stages overlapped and provided sweet conversations and heart connections.

As the Schalchlins opened their cozy home to so many guests that Sunday afternoon, I was reminded of a quote by Kris Camealy in "Come, Lord Jesus": 

"In Advent, as we wait for our permanent dwelling place beside God, we can find our home in Jesus.  He is the only sanctuary, the only home, the only place where we can find the stability and safety we hunger for."

Monday, January 1, 2018

Christmas with Choates

The first of many visits over Christmas break began with a wet drive to pick up Aaron's precious grandmother.  

We transported her to Aaron's dad's house where we got to spend some time with the Choate side of the family.

Four generations hanging out together is normal and expected for our children on both sides of the family, 

but Aaron and I acknowledge it is a rare gift.