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.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Happy Birthday, Sarah!

My beautiful first born turned nineteen yesterday.  She is growing into such a lovely young woman.

While looking through old pictures, I found evidence that things I find in Sarah now have been true for a long time.  She still loves to read books.

Most definitely you can still find her in the kitchen creating up a delicious storm.

And she still loves to make music.

We celebrated in our customary way:  with food and laughter.

Sarah made her own birthday cake, an incredible concoction of homemade chai cheesecake with a homemade gingersnap crust layered with chai cake and smothered in chai cream cheese icing.  With homemade chai ice cream on the side.

All of the chai spices reflected one of the influence that JBU had on her development last year.  I hear that the Missionary Kid group drinks copious amounts of chai tea.

Friday, July 27, 2018

More Adventures with DJ

We've just been enjoying one little adventure after another while DJ is here.

 Wooly Hollow gave us a great chance to enjoy the water and to grill some hamburgers.

And since DJ says she gets more "nature" in just a few days with us than she does all year long, it seemed fitting to take her to the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum.

Followed by a trip to the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum,

where we climbed aboard a submarine, the USS Razorback.

 The guide noticed Benjamin's orchestra t-shirt and asked what instrument Benjamin played.  Then he said he had attended Mills High School and played the cello!  I knew his teacher.  What a small world.

This was the entire galley, where the crew ate all of their meals.  Underneath those covers, the tables have checkers, chess, and backgammon boards.

We climbed back up to the outside world (wish I had thought ahead and NOT worn a dress),

and moseyed on over to the museum.

My favorite item in the museum was the USS Arkansas'  beautiful communion set donated by a church in New York.  

Beauty plus function equals perfection.

In the gift shop, we found a t-shirt that should be what each Solomon Island village team wears as we get on the boat early in the morning on our way back out to our village homes.  "I love the smell of diesel in the morning" might just become our new slogan.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

After all of last summer's adventures, DJ came back for more!  

We drove straight (well, with a quick stop for coffee after her red-eye flight) to the Arkansas Archaeological Survey research station to meet Dr. Emily for a tour.

She led us through a walk through her Woodland, Mississippian, and Colonial period gardens.  My curiosity was whetted last week when I took a continuing education class about foodways in Arkansas history, and I wasn't disappointed on our tour!

I think everybody's favorite part of the tour was when we got to try throwing the atlatl.

We paused for a picnic lunch at a gorgeous overlook.  Our little Arkansas mountains are nothing compared to DJ's big California mountains, but they are beautiful and look like home to me.

After lunch, we drove over to the Rock House Cave tour at Petit Jean State Park.

The cave is beautiful all by itself, 

 then the whole thing is really spectacular!  

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

My phone rang last week, and when I was looked at the screen, I was thrilled to see that it was our sweet friend, Ellen.  And even more thrilled when she asked if we could meet for lunch halfway between our homes!

We sure do love the "Ellens".  What started as a mentor teacher/new teacher relationship has turned into an adopted family relationship.  They celebrated Benjamin's graduation just like they did Sarah's last year.  Just like they helped us welcome Sarah and Benjamin as babies when we still lived in the same town.  We're so grateful for friendships that span the years and the miles.

Monday, July 23, 2018

This time of year, our "Rose of Sharon" blooms beautifully.  Because this flower is related to the hibiscus that is so prevalent back in the Solomon Islands, we think of our far-away home when we see the shape of the leaves and the lovely blooms.  When I found "A Piece of Home" on the Arkansas Diamond Award book list last year, I knew I needed to get it for our family.

According to the children's literature consultant who wrote the review:  "A child-friendly story about the trials and triumphs of starting over in a new place while keeping family and traditions close."  With descriptive language and beautiful illustrations, this book is a keeper.  My heart was especially captured by the grandmother who struggled to adjust (we grownups do have a hard time with change!).  A Rose of Sharon seedling helps soothe the wounds left by transition and bridge the cultural gap.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

So far, Benjamin has been the Choate who participated in the University of Central Arkansas' Strings Camp, but this year he was too old.  And Katherine was just old enough!

We are so thankful for the team of orchestra teachers who organize the camp.  They are men of integrity and high musical quality.  Even knowing that our kids' first ensemble experience was strings camp, they still welcomed the Choates with open arms.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Happy Birthday, Gran!

Yesterday, my grandmother turned 85 years old, and for two years in a row, we got to celebrate with her!

My brother and sister-in-law joined us, too.  Yippee!  As usual, Sarah outdid herself with her version of a key lime cake.

Katherine was playing her cello at strings camp, and my parents were on their way back from an overseas mission trip, 

but we still had a sweet houseful.

Friday, July 20, 2018

I love it when people call and ask if they can come spend time with us!  Especially when it's my sweet cousin, Elizabeth.  Last night she joined us for a meal and taught us a new game, Hanabi.  This one is definitely going on the Choate wish list for our game chest.

Her sweet spirit and willingness to follow the Lord wherever He leads (even across an ocean) encourages me to do the same.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Twenty-One Years of Wedded Bliss

"The mark of a wild heart is living out the paradox of love in our lives.  It's the ability to be tough and tender, excited and scared, brave and afraid -- all in the same moment.  It's showing up in our vulnerability and our courage, being both fierce and kind." 
 ~Brene` Brown

Today we celebrated our 21st anniversary by taking a thirty minute coffee break, using free drinks I had earned on my card.  We knew that this season in our lives really didn't have space or money for what most people would consider a big romantic get-away.  Every day, my husband chooses to love me well.  He chooses to be "tough and tender, excited and scared, brave and afraid".  We came away from our brief time together refreshed, encouraged, sharing in our vulnerability, and more in love than ever.  And those dimples...