Friday, January 31, 2020

Good Communication

"Let us love one another, serve one another, and lift one another up to bring the truth of the Gospel back into our hearts. Let us spur one another on in all our communication for his ultimate glory and our joy."  
~Beth and Jeff McCord, "Becoming Us"

The nuts and bolts of good communication clank around in my brain often.  Like when I watch my girls practice their piano duets and their distinct personalities emerge (ENFJ for Olivia and INFP for Katherine, in case you were wondering). Sometimes they have the opportunity to practice harmony in their communication as well as in their music.

In our marriage, we are always working hard to communicate well, often missing the mark, backing up, apologizing, and beginning again.  We strive to communicate with our children well, too, and we regularly have to exercise extra grace with each other.

Even observing these four guys on the basketball court last weekend (representing almost 75 years of translation experience in this corner of the world), I marveled at their good communication with each other.

These conversations all happen among people whose first language is English and who would call North America one of their homes.  Throw in different countries, languages, and cultures, and the communication soup grows thicker.  Here at SITAG, our tiny branch, we have quite the variety of backgrounds to consider as we serve together.  I'm praying the above quote for each one of us, especially as we head into our biennial conference.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Friday Favorite Five

-When I'm in Arkansas, I never think about the wind.  But when we are trying to get Aaron back out to the Russells for a quick trip, the wind and waves make a huge impact on his travels.  Enter (our new best friend).  I've always been a little bit of a weather geek, but this website is both fun and helpful.

-Sometimes I struggle to remember to put my roots down deep into God's Word and His love.  This necklace (yay for coupons!) is a constant physical reminder of the truth found in Colossians 3:17.

-Part of our hometown Community Supported Agriculture includes handmade items.  I love the Goat's Milk soaps, especially the peppermint, for the climate here in the Solomon Islands.  We brought a bar with us, and I'm enjoying it down to the last little sliver.

-Knowing how God created each one of us holds great value.  We're always looking for new "tools" in our toolbox of good communication for our family.  I just snagged "Becoming Us:  Using the Enneagram to Create a Thriving, Gospel-Centered Marriage" for the Kindle app on my phone.  I'm looking forward to the conversations this book will generate, probably over a cup of coffee.

-If I had one piece of advice to offer to families, it would be PLAY TOGETHER!  Where we live and the ages of our kids determines how we play, but games are often the center of our laughter.  We introduced our kids to Trivial Pursuit a couple of years ago, and we recently found a box here at SITAG.  There is something extremely encouraging when your kids realize they are absorbing all of that school work and can hold their own in almost any category.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

"Jesus would have made a lousy kickball captain.  He doesn't select the strongest, most agile players.  He skips over the smarty pants valedictorians and Ivy League graduates.  Instead, Jesus assembles an improbable team."  ~Margaret Feinberg, "Flourish"

You and I are a part of Jesus' improbable team, but I often forget.  It's easy to remember that I'm not the strongest or the smartest.  When I'm standing on the porch, checking in with my faithful accountability partner in America, and God sends the lowest, so-close-I-can-touch it rainbow I've ever seen, then my eyes are opened again to His hand at work.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Birthdays and Blessings

As we bobbed up and down on our return to Honiara, we discovered that the skipper had a birthday during the first week of January.  So we couldn't pass up the opportunity to celebrate and to say thank you for the work he does in the Solomon Islands.

With this many God-given personalities clustered around the table, you know the evening was loud (especially when the cheap balloons began to pop!) and sweet and delicious.

Monday, January 13, 2020


We knew we would have to depend on chocolate chips and pecans from care packages, what we didn't anticipate was the lack of marshmallows in Honiara.  (This year was a wee bit warmer than our last two proposal-versaries.)

So we did what we always do, we figured out how to make it work.  Aaron suggested we substitute freshly grated and toasted coconut instead of marshmallows for our traditional proposal-versary rocky road ice cream.  I will never go back to marshmallows again.

Tropical Rocky Road Ice Cream
loosely based on "The Ultimate Ice Cream Book"

3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips (we prefer semi-sweet or dark chocolate)
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup freshly grated coconut, toasted

Place the sugar, eggs, and cocoa in a food processor and blend until smooth.

Bring the milk to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan.  With the food processor running, slowly pour the hot milk into the chocolate mixture through the feed tube.  Process until well blended.  Pour the entire mixture back into the pan and place over low heat.  Stir constantly with a whisk until the custard thickens slightly.  Be careful not to let the mixture boil or the eggs will scramble.  Remove from the heat and pour the hot chocolate custard through a strainer into a large, clean bowl.  Allow the custard to cool slightly, then stir in the cream and vanilla.  Cover and refrigerate until cold or overnight.

Stir in the chocolate chips, pecans, and coconut, then freeze in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions.  When finished, the ice cream will be soft but ready to eat.  For firmer ice cream, transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze at least 2 hours (if you can wait that long).

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Sweet Sabbath

"Worship can lasso the wild horses of shame, gladness, anger, loneliness, and sadness, and then corral them inside the fence of truth."  ~Sandra McCracken 

This little friend visits me in the village every morning when I hang out laundry.  He perches on the vital cord that connects our solar panels to the batteries inside the house.  And I marvel.

Building my "fence of truth" today with worship with a sweet old hymn as well as a new tune.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

They're Back!

Our musical welcome prepared the way for our dear friends Henk and Margreet to return to the Solomon Islands.  We haven't seen them since they visited us in our American home, and before that, we spent some time with them in their Canadian home.  But it's been several years since we've worked side by side in the Solomon Islands.

These folks are the real deal.  I love their hearts.  I love their smiles.  I love their refusal to quit when things get hard (like when the persistent rat is trying to move in with them).  I love that they keep coming back again and again to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  When I grow up, I want to be just like them.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

In which we meet professional musicians in the Solomon Islands...

When we left the music education and orchestra world in 2006, we thought it would be forever.  Even though it broke our hearts, we put the desire to teach music and to play our cellos on the altar.  And the Lord keeps giving us opportunities to dip our toes back into the world of music for refreshment. When we were in the village, I got an email from a colleague introducing me to a cellist from England who was going to be spending a couple of weeks in Honiara.  

What a treat to have members of the Dionysus Ensemble come to share a meal with us last night.  In the midst of their busy days of pouring out their time and energy for the people of the Solomon Islands, they found a little bit extra to come listen to our girls and give them some tips.  Connecting over music and laughing about differences in terminology (like "pudding" vs. "dessert") refreshed our hearts and reminded me that God almost always surprises me with the way He works.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Trickling in...

SITAG's Conference is just around the corner, and our amazing colleagues, who are scattered around the world, are beginning to trickle in.  If we have to sit through days and days of business meetings, these are the people I want around me.

 Aaron found a fun way to welcome sweet Cynthia from the top of the airport.  She continues to amaze me with her perseverance and willingness to serve the Solomon Islands through Scripture Use.

As always, Cynthia was all smiles, despite the physical challenges of her trans-Pacific journey.  In her quiet way, she encourages me to trust the Lord and His perfect timing and direction.

SITAG will swell over the next few weeks.  You won't find a more humble, servant-hearted group of people anywhere on earth. I'm grateful for the ways this community shapes me and impacts the Kingdom of God.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Thoughts for the New Year

The house was, as Bilbo had long ago reported, "a perfect house, whether you like food or sleep or story-telling or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all".  Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear, and sadness.
 ~JRR Tolkein, "The Lord of the Rings"

Around here, we love our routines.  Over the years, we've discovered that our family functions better with a few boundaries like regular times to go to sleep and to wake up, some sort of intentional exercise, etc.  We also value family traditions, recipes, and activities.  At the same time, we're open to new things, too!  On New Year's Eve, our German colleagues introduced us to their tradition of watching "Dinner for One" (and the background information for those of us who didn't have a clue).

Years ago, some of our precious friends gave us an aebleskiver pan, but it's been sitting in a box, collecting dust.  We thought New Year's Day breakfast was the perfect time to pull it out again.  Our Christmas gifts to the girls this year were a new-to-us piano keyboard and "Rails and Sails" (yay for gift cards!).   I like the way that good food, games, scripture reading around the table, puzzles, music, and routines all combine so we can say "Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear, and sadness."

Sometimes I still need reminders that God is at work among all of those small, daily things.  Especially at the beginning of a new year.  So I take all of last year's pictures and put them on "slideshow", pull up some of my favorite versions of "Great is Thy Faithfulness", and let my heart and mind ruminate on all God has done in our lives in just the last twelve months.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Family Traditions

Coming back to Honiara means family traditions and long anticipated mail and being able to connect to friends and family through the internet again.  We've enjoyed opening the snail mail that arrived in our absence,

making Christmas cookies, eating gingerbread waffles for our deferred family Christmas morning, and beginning our Three Kings puzzle.  And we got a special treat when a couple of SITAG kids who usually live in Australia came back for a quick Christmas visit and we got to hug their necks and catch up.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

The Blessing

We're settling back into Honiara again, the girls are back in school, and we've found our routine.  Now I can catch up on the blog!  Last Friday, we wanted to be ready as soon as Mik and Lyn showed up with the boat.  So we began to take our cargo down to the shore in the early afternoon.  As always, we had friends who realized what we were doing, so they offered their muscles to move boxes to the loading area.  The sailboat showed up, and Mik came ashore in the dingy just as we finished with the last bit of cargo. 

I asked my friend Skita to make a wreath of flowers for the boat as a small thank you, and they were absolutely beautiful.  Saturday morning, we loaded the sailboat at 6 a.m. and watched the sunrise as the captain made everything ready for our departure.  I was extra proud of Olivia because she had been out late the night before singing Christmas carols in other villages.  Not a word of complaint when the alarm went off, just hard work to get everything ready.

As you think about my spunky Olivia, would you please pray for her?  She fits in so well with the other young adults in our village.  But many of them will be going back to the schools around the Solomons, so Olivia won't have as many peers when we return.  And at SITAG she has no peers.  She is doing a great job of processing everything and doing the best she can to be an integral part of wherever she lives.

We're so thankful for the Blessing.  Our trip took about twelve hours because of great winds blowing in the right direction.  But the sea is still rough in between the Russells and Guadalcanal (yay for candied ginger and Bonine).  And packing and moving is still a very difficult transition that zaps us.  Mik and Lyn gave us a soft place to land, fed us yummy food, and totally allowed us to relax during the trip back to SITAG.  Much smoother than the ride on a copra boat!