Friday, August 31, 2018

Cue the music!  "Be Still My Soul" by Kari Jobe, or if you prefer, an acapella version by Eclipse 6.  Either way, you can't beat the encouraging words and Sibelius' tune to bring peace into your day.

1)  Sally Clarkson's blog and podcasts.  I love her heartbeat for the home!  Here's just the tip of the iceberg from her blog bio:  "Home is the place where the whispers of God’s love are heard regularly, the touch of His hands is given intentionally throughout the day, the words of His encouragement and affirmation pointed to lay the foundation of loving relationships where the mother conducts the beauty of this life within its walls."

2)  Groceries that you can order ahead and then go pick up.  This means that during the girls' piano lessons, I can drive over to the grocery store and grab exactly what I need.  I don't get distracted by looking at all the pretty things or buy anything that isn't on my list.  Huge time and money saver, and I count this as good stewardship!

3)  The Techie Teacher.  For somebody like me who is totally clueless about technology, this website is a great tool!  I often feel like I'm just getting the hang of things about the time we leave America and return overseas, so this website is going to serve as some serious professional development for me.  We used her post about e-mail for children to guide us toward a good choice for Katherine so she can do some things for homeschool.

4)  Vitamins.  Our family works to be intentional about good nutrition.  It helps that we just really like to eat!  I'll admit, I've been skeptical about many of the products out there, especially ones targeted toward specialty groups.  But there have been a few supplements that have really benefitted me over the last year, and now I'm willing to be cautiously optimistic about taking supplements.

The first one that really helped me was taking iron.  When we were overseas, I craved red meat (which is terribly expensive) and leafy greens and struggled with energy.  Taking slow-release iron boosted that energy level noticeably.

Another helpful extra was turmeric.  My knees were hurting something awful, but losing quite a bit of weight plus adding the turmeric capsules has erased the pain (but not the rice crispies sounds).

I read that One a Day vitamins had increased their Biotin in the women's multivitamin.  According to their website:  "The biotin level was increased to help support healthy hair, smooth skin and strong nails which are important to women.  Biotin is an essential nutrient important for the metabolism of carbohydrates, fat and protein.For the women’s tablets, we increased the Biotin level from 300 mcg to 1000 mcg per serving."  I started taking biotin during the school year because I noticed my nails flaking like crazy.  As a cellist, I don't really want long nails, but all of the sudden, they are strong and healthy like never before.

The vitamins I'm not convinced about are the ones targeted for teens.  I've got three teens in the house, but the ingredients don't look that different from other multivitamins.  Anybody want to weigh in on this one?

Ok so it's Friday Favorite Four.  And that's okay :-)

Thursday, August 30, 2018


As Aaron and I navigate a season in which he will be traveling internationally for thirty out of forty-nine days (but who's counting?!?), I'm reminded of the "Seven Secrets of Resilience" from the book "Married and Still Loving It", and I'm so grateful that Aaron already knew these secrets and has taught them to me and modeled them for our children:

1.  All couples will face difficulties.

2.  When we focus on solving the problem, rather than on blaming each other, we are more likely to find a solution. 

3.  We cannot change circumstances, but we can change our attitude.  A positive attitude always wins.

4.  We will not always understand why things happen.  The question is not "Why did this happen to us?" but rather, "What can we learn from this experience?"

5.  Turning to God and trusting Him with our pain is always better than running away from Him.

6.  Listening to each other is always better than yelling at each other.

7.  We need each other  Together we will survive this problem.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Yesterday, some of our friends honored us by trusting us to care for their almost two-year-old.  What a joy it was to delight in that age again!  The girls diligently did their school work, and I got to sing and take walks and play with blocks and read books.  Of course, now my kids are asking why we don't have another baby...

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

How life looks when Aaron is gone...

Technology worked well enough in Fiji that Aaron was able to call through Facebook.  It was so nice to hear his voice and see his face!  He'll try to call again from Honiara, but we anticipate the internet being too slow.  At least we can email and stay in touch :-)

Just a few weeks ago, it was a race to the coffee pot in the mornings.  I've made the habit of starting my day with a cute little 8 ounce cup, leaving coffee in the pot for all of the other coffee drinkers as well as giving myself the security of a fresh second cup of coffee when we make a French press of coffee with breakfast (I'd rather have no coffee than old, burnt coffee.).  Then the college kids left.  So, Aaron and I began making half a pot to start the day.  Then my hubby left!  Now I'm the only one left who drinks coffee regularly.  The girls might have a little bit here or there, but coffee doesn't figure into their daily routines like it does mine.  Enter the BIG MUG.  Now I start my day with a monster cup of coffee.  At least for the next three weeks...

Sunday, August 26, 2018

He's Off!

Early this morning, we drove to the airport to get Aaron started on his trip back to the Solomon Islands.  My third culture kids were bereft that they weren't getting on the plane, too.

Aaron will be gone for three weeks, and many details of this trip are out of his hands.  He's great at being flexible and making wise decisions on the spur of the moment.  Would you please pray for his discernment and especially for cross cultural awareness with all of the bits and pieces of this huge puzzle?

We're hopeful and excited about what he finds on paper and in the hearts of the Lavukal translation team!

Saturday, August 25, 2018

It probably looked a little shady.  Two vehicles pulling up in an empty parking lot.  Four people emerging and making a transfer of goods.  Except in this case, the people involved serve in full-time ministry, and the goods involved were t-shirts for the Lavukal Bible translation committee.  

We're so grateful to our friends who went the extra mile  (or two!) to help us get these shirts in time for Aaron to take them to the Solomon Islands on the plane tomorrow!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Mamas out there, let me encourage you that while you are taking care of everybody around you, make sure to do the same things for yourself.  For years, as we've traveled around the world, in and out of good medical care, I've made sure that my kids and hubby always got the shots, eye appointments, dental cleanings, etc., but I haven't been consistent in taking care of myself.

It's like the oxygen mask on the airplane, if I don't take care of myself, I won't be able to nurture those around me.  So, this week, I finally finished up all of my doctor's appointments!  If I want my family to be good stewards of their minds, bodies, spirits, and emotions, I need to model that.  One of our dear friends recommended the book "Mindset", and it finally came in at the library.  

I'm only a third of the way through, but I'm already being convicted about the way I'm using my mind and the ways I'm encouraging (or not) my kids to use their minds.

And while I'm on the topic of stewardship, we're tackling PE this semester to fulfill Olivia's credits for graduation.  Katherine can do more pushups and sit-ups than Olivia and I can do put together.  As I often told my orchestra students last year, we have lots of room for improvement!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Taco Tuesday

Last night, we enjoyed Taco Tuesday with a couple of extras:  my parents.  After supper, my mom pulled out a new game for us to try.  Left, Center, Right gave us a few minutes of laughter while our tacos digested happily.  Short and sweet and perfect for an after supper round of fun!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Trying to be intentional as we navigate the transition from six to four means building new traditions.  Breakfast at CafĂ© on Broadway (where we drained three French presses of coffee)...

and ice cream at Pure Joy.  These places in Siloam Springs are going to help us make some touchstones and memories for our family in the future

But then we have to return to daily life as a family of four.  I think each of us has called out for Sarah or Benjamin at least once before remembering they are no longer in the house.  We are consoling ourselves with making beautiful food and using some lovely vintage dishes - but we only have enough for four.

Now that all of the hubbub has died down, we're also resuming the old comfortable ways of doing things.  Going to the farmers' market, starting back to homeschool, keeping a more regular schedule.  As we take care of our bodies and our spirits, we are finding that our hearts are following the other parts of us.

I think the best thing that we've done to help heal the huge hole in our family is to have our family videotapes transferred to digital.  We are laughing hysterically as we watch cute little Sarah and Benjamin's antics.  We're marveling in the fact that we have six of our children's great-grandparents on these videos.  And we are once again so very grateful for the full lives the Lord has given us.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Sweet Sabbath

We had the honor of returning to Pleasant Grove Baptist Church today to update them on the translation project.  I got to hear my favorite preacher, and the church provided a sumptuous potluck for lunch where we lingered over the good food and sweet fellowship.

Afterwards, we walked a few steps to spend time with some of my favorite people on earth:  

We were fewer in number today, but we still enjoyed playing and laughing and catching up.  What a joy to be close enough to family to continue to strengthen those bonds!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Eagles have landed

Yesterday, the rain held off long enough for us to pack two vehicles and a little U-Haul trailer full of things to make two dorm rooms home for Sarah and Benjamin (and with a lot of stuff that belongs to Sarah's roommate who studied abroad last semester).  These guys have totally emptied their rooms because when this school year ends, they won't have a home to go back to.  The rest of us plan to be back in the Solomon Islands by that point.

My grandma swung by the house to say goodbye.  Reminded me of twenty-six years ago when another college student was leaving for the new school year.

When we arrived at John Brown University (whose mascot is an eagle), Sarah was attacked by hugs.  So much joy as friends were reunited!  The unloading went quickly as many hands pitched in to make light work.  I'm thankful that my kids have a great support network of family and friends who love and encourage.

While Aaron went to return the trailer, the rest of us unpacked boxes and lofted the beds.

I loved the juxtaposition of books and spices - two of Sarah's favorite things.

After supper, we got Benjamin unpacked and lofted.  Then the fab four headed back to the hotel while Sarah and Benjamin made a trip to Walmart to buy the things they had forgotten to bring.

And to make a run to Sonic for half price shakes after 8:00.

This morning, the fab four loaded up in the empty van with school books and headed back to JBU for the day.

 We worked in the back of the room, the girls and I on school and Aaron on translation work, while Sarah and Benjamin sat at the front of the room.  Even amidst the meetings and a flood of information poured on the new international students and missionary kids, the hearts of the staff spoke loud and clear to their commitment to serving these students and to honoring Christ.

 Our eagles have landed in a safe nest indeed.  Let the adventure begin!

Monday, August 13, 2018

"She wasn't afraid of people in need because she wasn't afraid of needing others.  She didn't mind extending kindness to others, because she herself relied on the kindness of others."  ~Brene` Brown

No school means opportunities for our family to be involved more actively in hospitality this summer.  We've stretched our definition of hospitality a little bit over the last few weeks.  Sometimes Aaron and I have met another couple at a restaurant, sometimes our family has grilled hamburgers at a state park with another family.

"It isn't the great big pleasures that count the most; it's making a great deal out of the little ones."  ~Jean Webster

This weekend we hosted my parents and my nephew from Minnesota.  We don't get to see him very often, so it was definitely a treat to see the cousins hanging out together.  After church Sunday morning, we celebrated a friend's birthday with one of Sarah's delicious and beautiful cakes.  No matter how we offer hospitality in its various forms, this is my prayer (from "Every Moment Holy"):

"Meet us in the making of this meal, O Lord, and make of it something more than a mere nourishment for the body.  Make it the center of a sheltered space where grace freely flows.  Let the slow savoring of these foods give pause to those who will soon partake, prompting them to linger long at table, taking rest from the labors of the day, engaging in good conversation."

Friday, August 10, 2018

Shooting arrows...

Arriving at Mt. Nebo State Park always feels like we've come home.  No matter which cabin we choose, we have a restful place to lay our head, a safe sphere in which to make memories and laugh.

When we asked our kids what was important to them for closure and "one last time" before Sarah and Benjamin headed off to college and the rest of us headed back to the Solomon Islands, the resounding answer was to go back to Mt. Nebo.

So we found room in the budget and on the calendar.

We hit the trails.

And enjoyed the view.

Got a little bit silly, too.

The most important part of this trip to me was providing closure on a family of six and launching two college students and a family of four.  

A simple way to do that?  Utilizing the beautiful Every Moment Holy and the thoughtful prayer for students inside.  After the three oldest Choates got up early to watch the sunrise,

(my bedhead is much worse than Aaron's!) and drink our coffee,

the whole family gathered around the breakfast table outside and took turns reading the liturgy for students and scholars.  This is just a small portion:

"Give me a deepening knowledge of truth and a finer discernment of the ideas I encounter in my studies.  Guard my mind always against error, and guard also my heart against the temptation to compare my own performance to the work of my peers, and so to fall into either of the twin traps of shame or pride."

Even as we played dominoes and hiked more trails later in the morning, the words kept echoing as a blessing for my college kids...

"Grant instead that I might happily steward what scholarly gifts you have apportioned me, and that I might do so as means of preparing myself for service to you and to others, my identity drawn from your love and forgiveness, and not from my grades or accolades here."

It's time to draw back the bow and shoot...

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

A Singular Gift

"What I in my weakness see as another monotonous day in a string of days, God has given as a singular gift."  ~Tish Harrison Warren, "Liturgy of the Ordinary"

Oh, this sweet week with plenty of errands and very little routine after a summer of super busy.  I recently discovered "The Workers Prayer" by the Gettys, and it's been on repeat for several days now as the words percolate down into my heart and mind.  We have less than a week as a family of six, and last night God gave us the unexpected gift of rain and play.  

Rain is always a precious gift when we are in the village.  It fills our water tanks and give us refreshing coolness.  Often the kids go out and play and get soaked.  We always make hot chocolate (even in the heat and humidity of the tropics!) when it rains, and the whole event becomes special.  Last night brought back memories of village life.  The kids were giddy and ran outside to splash in the puddles.  They opened their mouths wide and drank in the rain.  And I ran inside to dig up my mama's hot chocolate recipe that has hardly been used since we came back to life in America where you can just turn on the faucet any time you want water.  I don't know what tomorrow holds, but I know it will be a singular gift from the Lord, and I plan to enjoy it to the fullest.

Mama's Hot Chocolate

1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
1/3 cup hot water
4 cups milk
dash salt
3/4 tsp vanilla 
(and any other flavoring you'd like!)

Mix sugar, cocoa, and salt in a saucepan; stir in water.  Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils.  Boil and stir constantly for two minutes.  Whisk in milk and heat through, but do not boil.  Remove from heat and add vanilla.  Our family likes to add mint extract as well.