Sunday, September 15, 2019

Sweet Sabbath

The morning sky stopped me in my tracks repeatedly.  Everywhere I looked, I couldn't get away from God's creation and His provision.  Aaron and I just had a mini worship service while we walked.  And I was reminded of some of my favorite verses from Philippians:


"Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again:  Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent of praiseworthy - think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you."  
Philippians 4:4-9


I recently read this snippet about these verses from She Reads Truth:

1)  Rejoice in the Lord (v. 4).  Have I reminded myself of the joy in knowing Christ and that He, no matter the conflict I'm in, has already triumphed over it all?  Though it may be the last thing I feel like doing I am called to rejoice!

2)  Practice grace and patience (v. 5).  Am I being gracious and patient as I wait for the Lord and HIS resolution?

3)  Pray steadfastly (v. 6).  Have I poured out my heart to God, asking for His help and showing gratitude that He hears me and is already working on my behalf?


4) Dwell on Him, not the problem (v. 8).  Am I focusing on God's Word and His character - His beauty, compassion, righteousness, grace - instead of on the conflict?

5) Obey Him (v. 9).  Am I letting God be God, regardless of the conflict, holding onto my faith and obediently following His will?  Or am I abandoning His truth and being driven to sin?


Remembering Paul's charge to the Philippians, let's ask God to use our conflicts to change us, to help us focus on Him and those things worthy of our thoughts, and to keep us in His Word and will.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Vulnerability


I recently downloaded "Falling Free" on my Kindle, and I'm slowly chewing my way through it.  Vulnerability isn't a new topic for me.  But it's obviously one I still need to visit.  The last two Fridays in a row, I've had very public culinary disasters!  


The first kitchen fail was rock hard potatoes and almost raw (and very tough) chicken when I was trying to nourish a family whose mama was fighting malaria.  They were very gracious, and we still enjoyed visiting during supper.  The second disaster was caramel corn that overcooked, so the syrup was grainy.  The bowl still emptied quickly (I actually couldn't keep my own sticky hand out!) while our SITAG family played games.  And nobody complained.  

Now we have funny stories to share and to build our community, because I didn't have time or energy to cook something else for supper last week, and there was no way I was going to toss that precious popcorn yesterday.  Vulnerability certainly does glue us together into a community.  I urge you to try it and see for yourselves.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Chicken, Rice, and Black Bean Salad

I often find leftover chicken as well as leftover brown rice in my fridge.  And one of my favorite things to do with those two ingredients is to marry them in this chicken, rice, and black bean salad.  Cause it may be September, but we are still hot as blazes here at the equator!


Chicken, Rice, and Black Bean Salad
Adapted from Martha Stewart 
Serves four

1 cup cooked brown rice
2-3 cups cooked, shredded chicken 
1 can (15 1/2 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
15-20 grape or plum tomatoes, halved
1 bell pepper, finely diced
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1/8 cup white-wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
coarse salt and ground pepper

Mix everything in a bowl and toss to combine.  

Serve immediately, or refrigerate, covered, up to one day.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Sensitive Plant

 One of my favorite things about living in the Solomon Islands is the abundance of flora and fauna.  Around here, we have a story behind the "Sensitive Plant".  Supposedly when the Japanese occupied Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, they planted a lot of these to give them an advantage.


When you touch their leaves, they immediately fold up and stay that way for several minutes.  The Japanese could tell if anyone had recently walked by because of the position of the leaves.


Returning home from my morning walk, these beautiful flowers caught my eye.  No matter why they were planted in this country, the Creator still gets the glory as I sit in awe and wonder at their design.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Sweet Sabbath


"Now every day I am offered the gift of living in such a way that I get a taste of what it means to need him.  Resting fully dependent in the palm of his hand, I realize the safety of staying small.  I get to embrace the full shock value of the kingdom of God, and that is the real blessing.  I get to be knocked around by the fallout of belonging to a life where I am wildly ill equipped to meet its demands.  I am honored to experience an existence marked by dependence, where I submit to God's will for my life."  


When we're in the Solomon Islands, I have to look a little bit harder for the gifts.  I need help remembering that "every day I am offered the gift of living in such a way that I get a taste of what it means to need him"!  Some of the beautiful gifts from the last few days:

-Watching the sun break through the clouds as it set behind the mountains of Guadalcanal.

-Finding activities that qualify as a "date night" is a challenge here, so when we got to attend a lecture given by Kristy of Kultured Wellness and sponsored by Kokonut Pacific, we were thrilled.


-But it gets better!  We had a sponsor for meal in a restaurant (only the second time we've eaten out at night here since 2008), so we enjoyed Indian cuisine after the lecture.  It was a delight to be able to chat about the lecture and enjoy good food, such a rare treat.


-Sometimes the gifts are harder to accept, like nights when the neighborhood is loud with dogs or drunken parties.  With our windows wide open, sleep is elusive on those nights, so then we receive the gift of dependence for strength and energy the next day.  And we appreciate the gift of sleep even more the next time we rest well.


-Our children are certainly gifts.  And Katherine brought me much joy when she turned her boring breakfast bowl into a smiling masterpiece.

"If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"  
Matthew 7:11

Tuesday, September 3, 2019


Sunday morning, Aaron made his third trip in three days to the end of Guadalcanal.  He took SITAG's project coordinator along, and they attended a translation awareness meeting for the Savosavo language.  


Our area shares many similarities with this language group, politically we are represented by the same member of parliament, our church districts are shared with other language groups (just like theirs), we're both tiny people groups, and both of these languages belong to the group of four language isolates in the Solomon Islands.


Aaron really enjoyed his time getting to know our neighbors and encouraging them as they begin a translation project.  Life is never boring here!

Monday, September 2, 2019

Lavukaleve Recording Team Update

Last Friday morning, Aaron set out early to drive to the end of Guadalcanal so he could pick up the recording team that had been working in our village to capture Ruth and Jonah.  He waited for several hours until he had to return the truck to SITAG because it was needed for other things.  


Later that afternoon, he got a phone call that the team never left the village that morning, and the trip across the ocean was rescheduled for Saturday morning.  Saturday felt like a repeat of Friday, except that one of our colleagues and his son accompanied Aaron.  


These guys are all super flexible!  With no phone signal at Komibo, the pickup location, Aaron had no way of knowing when (or if!) the guys would arrive.  Thankfully, our colleague's village was just down the road, so they took the opportunity to pop in and say hi.  Eventually, the little motor boat appeared on the horizon.  Everyone connected, ate a little breakfast, and headed back to their different homes.



This project has been dragging on for almost a year, so we are super excited that things are finally moving forward again.  These guys are persevering and hard working.  Usually, the recordings aren't made in the village, but the speakers come into town for their voices to be captured.


Robert Mark and George didn't waste any time.  They are in SITAG's recording studio this week, splicing together everything needed for the dramatized recording of Ruth and Jonah in Lavukaleve.  Then they will create an app that we can share with our Lavukal neighbors.


We're so thankful for these guys and for their willingness to be inconvenienced (three hours slamming across the ocean in a motor boat!) as they give themselves to end Bible poverty.


Saturday, August 31, 2019

Now You See It, Now You Don't: Part 2

Cross-cultural workers must wrestle with that extra layer of uncertainty, but all over the world, people live in a "now you see it, now you don't" environment.  A world where hiding behind your social media profile is way too easy, and we can go days, weeks without really knowing what's going on in the lives of our friends and family.  Part of dying to self is reaching out to those that God places across my path.


It's up to me to be authentic and give my community a peek into my hidden corners.  And it's also up to me to be kind and gracious when I can't observe the root behind the "now you don't" behavior of my neighbor.  Let's ask each other questions that go beyond "How are you?"  Let's make space in our daily schedules to sit and really listen to each other.  Let's take our strengths that God lovingly placed in each one of us and use them to "encourage one another and build each other up".

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Now You See It, Now You Don't

Our lives here in the Solomon Islands fill up quickly with "now you see it, now you don't" moments.  I have a feeling that we're not the only ones. 


For example, here Olivia stands, joyful and laughing in anticipation on a Monday afternoon as the airplane taxis with some SITAG colleagues inside.  Now you see it.


What most people didn't see?  That Olivia brought school books with her and worked in the car all the way to the airport.  She also unpacked her bag and tackled chemistry right up until the time that we expected the plane to land.

In this picture, we splash and play and enjoy relaxing and visiting with our SITAG colleagues.  Now you see it.


What you don't see?  The requests for our time, energy, and money that come via a phone call after we've gone to bed.  The surprise visit early in the morning from a village friend who catches Aaron just getting out of the shower.  Our constant dependence on the Lord for wisdom and discernment at all hours of the night and day.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

What's Up?


 You are looking at two members of the Lavukal Translation Team and two members of SITAG's Recording Team.  We finally found a ship that would take them out to the Russell Islands at the end of last week, and Ruth and Jonah are being recorded in Marulaon Village this week.  We're super excited that this is finally happening!

Friday, August 23, 2019

Friday Favorite Five


Spiritual - I've really enjoyed "Wednesday's Word" from Paul Tripp

Mental - "Taste and See: Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers, and Fresh Food Makers" by Margaret Feinberg has been a delight as I slowly dip into one chapter at a time (feels like sneaking chocolate chips from the fridge).


Physical - Even though I only taught orchestra for a few years, the students that crossed my path were phenomenal people.  One of them is a personal trainer and owns a gym in the DFW area.  He issued a "Buns, Guns, and Abs" 30-day challenge, and our family joined in.  Tomorrow we'll be halfway through (55 squats, 13 pushups, and 55 leg lifts), and I'm kinda glad it's only thirty days.  Whew.


Emotional - care packages.  Any kind of snail mail, really!  To be reminded that we are not forgotten is such a sweet thing.

Just for fun - Atlas Obscura.  So many fun things to learn!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Organic Produce

I'm still making language blunders.  There is one woman in all of Honiara's Central Market who speaks Lavukaleve.  I always try to buy from her, but my language skills are rusty at best.  Especially when my wheels are turning trying to remember whether the word for heap needs a masculine, feminine, or neuter marker for two - the only number that needs to agree.  The result is that I almost never buy two of anything!  My girls won't let me live down the fact that I told our friend that she was tall (Inu sosona.) instead of that she was willing (Inu sasavali.) as she gave me an extra heap of tomatoes. 


But I really do love all of the fresh and abundant produce we can get here in town.  Especially when we are reminded that it is organic because of the cute little critters that Katherine finds.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Pumpkin Everything

It's August, folks.  And I'm already beginning to see pictures about pumpkin spice everything.  In our hometown, heat advisories are in effect right now.  And here in the Solomon Islands, the humidity is always sky high.  NO thoughts of autumn or cooler temps or pumpkin are pinging around in my brain.  However, pumpkins and other gourds are always plentiful and inexpensive in this country.


So this colorful, delicious, and COLD salad graced our lunch table.  Perfect for that summer weather that will continue for several more months in the American deep South.

Black Bean and Roasted Pumpkin Salad
Serves four

Ingredients:
2 cups cubed pumpkin
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup sliced red onion
1/4 cup sliced cucumber (we don't have celery here, so I double the cucumber)
1/4 cup sliced celery
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Directions:
Roast the pumpkin.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Toss pumpkin in 2 tablespoons olive oil with garlic and place in a glass baking dish.  Drizzle 3 tablespoons water in dish and bake until softented, 20 minutes. Remove and cool.

Prepare the salad.  Combine black beans, tomatoes, onion, cucumber, celery, and parsley in a large bowl.  Add remaining 2 tablespoons oi., lime juice, salt, and pepper; toss to coat.  Add cooled pumpkin, toss gently, and serve.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Greatest Hits Album


"It looked like a full calendar, a whirl of events and to-do lists and grocery lists.  But underneath it all, the month was a greatest hits album, a collection of stories, one after another, of the rich and gorgeous ways that God tells his stories through our lives."  


Lots of coconuts on my porch means I've been cooking pots and pots of coconut rice and "milked" fish.  And one of my favorite go-to easy desserts for company:  coconut custard pie.

Coconut Custard Pie

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celcius)

Combine in blender:

4 eggs
6 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup flour
2 cups milk
3/4 cup sugar (I prefer to reduce to 1/2 cup)
1 tsp. vanilla

Add:

1 cup coconut

Blend several seconds.  Pour into a greased and floured 10" pie pan.  Bake 50-60 minutes.  Pie forms its own crust (or you can leave out the flour for a gluten free option). 
 

In addition to the "greatest hits" of gathering lots of people and their stories around my table, Katherine experienced her first ever studio piano class last Friday.  We are super excited that the Lord has brought Mrs. Jennie into our lives as a real piano teacher (instead of Katherine having to put up with her mama).  It's a whole new circle of people!

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Teamwork

"Your hope is not found in your willingness and ability to endure, but in God's unshakable, enduring commitment to never turn from his work of grace....Perfect endurance demands just that - perfection - and since none of us is there yet, we must look outside ourselves for hope.  Your hope of enduring is not to be found in your character or strength, but in your Lord's."  ~Paul Tripp  



 In the mornings, Aaron works in the SITAG office and continues to fulfill his duties as acting director.  Then he rejoins the rest of the team each afternoon in the conference room underneath our house.  They are workhorses!   


I've been cooking mostly American food that uses ingredients often found in Solomon Islands food, but I knew the team would enjoy some really local cooking (and we would, too!).  So I asked Rosina to be the head chef one day for lunch.  I went to market that morning (I timed it, I could walk faster than I could drive in that bumper to bumper traffic!) to buy the fish and root crops and slippery cabbage, served as her sous chef, and she made all of our tummies SUPER happy.

It's been a crazy busy week, and this weekend we are catching our collective breath as we try to find any ship that might be headed back to our language group.  

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Choate Bed and Breakfast

Some day I want to open a bed and breakfast.  Until then, I'm practicing by taking care of the Lavukal Translation Team.  We finally got the entire team into Honiara on Tuesday morning.  A plethora of dugout canoes, motor boats, and landing craft finally assembled five men from five different places.


I appreciate their quiet faithfulness over the years.  This isn't glamourous work.  It's slow and tedious and important.  And the best way I know to say thank you?  By feeding them!

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Sweet Sabbath

The situation grates against my plans and well-worn desire to be in charge.  Picking something as simple as your destination plays well into the illusion that destiny is your to control, however, this trip has stripped me of making choices.  A part of me is tempted to pack my bags and return home in frustration.  


Yet I sense that If I relinquish control and stop trying to set the agenda, maybe I'll make space for God to move.  I force myself to receive each day as a gift rather than manage it like a to-do list.  It's a tussle, sometimes hour by hour, and with time, my experience begins to shift. 

I sequestered myself away for some much needed reading time this morning, and as I read these words, I thought, "She has taken a peek into my mind!!!"  Obviously, the Lord is teaching me some more, yet again, about handling change and chaos.


Sunday afternoons are sweeter when you borrow Codenames for your family game time.  Especially when an Aussie friend brings by a packet of TimTams as a thank you gift for banana muffins.  I think we came out on top of that trade!

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Comfort

Comfort.  I like it.  Comfort makes life easy and predictable.  It fools me into thinking I am in control.  That I don't need anybody.

"If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair."  
~C.S. Lewis

So, God, in His gracious parenting, pushes me out of my comfort zone.  


Earlier this week, we were waiting for the Kosco to return to Honiara with our three translators on board so the Lavukal team could do some work together.  We started calling one of our friends in the ship's office on Saturday to get updates.  The ship stayed put for several days, and we tried to update the translators who were waiting in Ezekiel's village.  But a call or text will only go through if the phone can actually connect to the phone signal that is being propagated from the other side of our language group.  And charging a phone can be expensive if the sun is hiding and you have to use a generator.  So our friends often turn their phones off.  When the ship finally started moving, we were ecstatic and anticipated their arrival sometime in the middle of the night on Tuesday or on Wednesday morning.  Tuesday, I bought a fish and lots of fresh produce to welcome our guys to Honiara.  However, as Aaron was walking down to the office on Wednesday morning, his phone rang.  The translators had missed the boat because it had come at 2 a.m. in the rain and they didn't hear it.

Aaron made a Plan B (or C or D at this point!).  He would go out with the recording team on the Nakita on Sunday, August 18, and then come back with the translation team on Monday.  Then today as we were sitting down to lunch, Aaron got a phone call from one of our translators saying, "I'm in Honiara, come pick me up!"  Dropkick right out of my comfort zone.  

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."  
~Martin Luther King, Jr.


So the plan is changing and flexing, and God knew that we could use a little extra local food, so I had already purchased a fundraising basket of cooked food from one of SITAG's employees.  We'll enjoy sharing with the translator tonight for supper.  And I'll keep on feeding the SITAG guard dog assigned to our family and digging in the SITAG garden and being faithful with the small, but not insignificant, things God has placed in my hands.  I will not quit, even when discouraged.  Not today.  I am not strong, but I will persevere.  God faithfully gives me the strength I need, exactly when I need it.  Even when He kicks me out of my comfort zone.

This is what the Lord says:  "Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercise kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the Lord.  
Jeremiah 9:23-24

Friday, August 9, 2019

77th Anniversary of the US landing on Guadalcanal


It's been a few years since our family has been in Honiara to celebrate the landing of the US Marines on Guadalcanal in the midst of World War 2.  We were grateful to attend the early morning ceremony at the US War Memorial this week.


The Marines brought with them a small brass ensemble, which was a joy to hear.  I had forgotten how nice it was to hear my national anthem as well as the "ma'ams" that peppered the conversations I had with the visiting Marines.


The Solomon Islands was a strategic battleground in the war against Japan.  Listening to the speeches that extoled both the courage of the Americans as well as the Solomon Islanders reminded me of how blessed we are to live in a place where history comes to life and where teamwork helped win a war.


I loved learning about one of my favorite picture books, The Story of Ferdinand, and how it impacted the Coastwatchers' philosophy:

Feldt code-named his organisation "Ferdinand", taking the name from a popular children's book about a bull, The Story of Ferdinand. He explained this by saying:
Ferdinand ... did not fight but sat under a tree and just smelled the flowers. It was meant as a reminder to coastwatchers that it was not their duty to fight and so draw attention to themselves, but to sit circumspectly and unobtrusively, gathering information. Of course, like their titular prototype, they could fight if they were stung.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Sweet Sabbath

"A single meal does not community make, but it has the potential to remind us we're not solo wanderers in the wilderness.  An invitation is a slight opening in the window of relationship, granting intimacy permission to drift in like a breeze into a stuffy room."  
~Leslie Verner, "Invited:  The Power of Hospitality in an Age of Loneliness"

If you give a mama a precious can of green chilis, she's going to want some chicken enchiladas to go with it.  When she looks up the recipe in the cookbook given to her by her kindergarten teacher as a wedding present, she'll realize she doesn't have any ground coriander.


So she'll call a friend nearby and be rescued by the friend's spice pantry.  Then she'll burn her fingers while deboning the chicken and listening to her stomach growl.  So she'll think about how many people it took to make this meal possible and how amazing it is that God has provided so many relationships over the years.

Chicken Enchiladas
(with apologies to "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie")
adapted from "Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook"

4 10-inch flour tortillas
1/2 cup chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 8-ounce carton dairy sour cream
2 cups chicken broth
1 4-ounce can diced green chili peppers, drained
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese (4 ounces)
2 cups chopped cooked chicken

optional garnish:
sliced pitted ripe olives
chopped tomatoes
sliced green onions


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  For sauce, in a saucepan cook onion, garlic, coriander and pepper in butter till onion is tender.  Stir flour into sour cream; add to onion mixture.  Stir in broth and chili peppers all at once.  Cook and stir till thickened and bubbly.  Remove from heat; stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese.

For filling, stir 1/2 cup of the sauce into chicken.  Place about 1/2 cup filling atop each tortilla; roll up.  Arrange rolls, seam side down, in a lightly greased 9x13 baking dish.  Top with remaining sauce.  Bake uncovered about 35 minutes or until heated through.


Sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Bake, uncovered, about 5 minutes more or till cheese melts.  If desired, sprinkle with olives, tomatoes, and green onions.  Let stand 10 minutes (if you can stand it).  Makes 4 servings.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Friday Favorite Five


Spiritual...I need structure in my life, so the She Reads Truth website and app give me a little bit of routine as I wipe the sleep out of my eyes and spend some time with Jesus in the mornings.

Physical...I'm all about accountability in each area of our lives.  And I'm also all about little bits of daily faithfulness that add up in every area of our lives.  Last week, I looked at my exercise app (Map My Walk - love it!) and was reminded of how good it is to track those small steps of progress.  When I look back, I'm delighted and surprised at the changes God has enabled.  This is true for tracking the books I've read or the scripture that I've memorized.  Keeping a record of progress, no matter how small, is encouraging!


Mental...keeping my Arkansas Teacher's License current is super important to me.  It means buying extra expensive "fast" internet here so I can watch the courses and take the quizzes I need to get my sixty hours of professional development each year.  But it also means I get to be a life long learner and absorb a variety of fascinating material!  I'm getting to learn things like the history of the Buffalo River, agriculture in Arkansas, the importance of integrating the arts across the curriculum, and how neuroscience affects the classroom.  I challenge you to keep your brain active and engaged.  It's so much fun!

Emotional...Finding a good activity or place to go on a date challenges us when we're on this side of the world.  Recently we made a little date out of renewing our drivers' licenses (did you know you can keep the same picture here?).  Sometimes we take a break from wogging and go on a "walky talky" so we can chat while we move, but more often we take advantage of the weekend and watch something like "Inspector Morse" in the comfort of our own home while we grab a sweet snack together.  We used to enjoy these mysteries together before we had children.  The important thing is that we are continuing to look for ways to stay connected and invest in our marriage.


Just for fun...Enneagram And Coffee.  You can follow them on just about every social media platform.  Our evening meals have been made more lively by reading through some of their posts, to the extent that sometimes we can't breathe because we are laughing so hard or pointing fingers at each other in agreement.  Make sure you check out their mugs!

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Wedding


Only a few weeks ago, our friend Joan was in the hospital recovering from a stroke.  



Recently, our SITAG family got to celebrate her marriage!


Her quick recovery is a testimony of the power of prayer of people all around the world.  



We feasted and celebrated and waved flies away from the food and gave speeches along with friends and family at Joan's house after the wedding.



We're so grateful for her strong spirit of perseverance and for the Lord's gracious healing.