Friday, February 21, 2020


When Aaron went down to the wharf this morning to check on the Lavusi, they said "Not tonight".  A little bit of engine trouble means we're shooting for Saturday night.  Saturday night means we get to the village on Sunday night.  And the village feast day begins bright and early on Monday morning.

So, what do we do to stay sane while we live out of backpacks and remember all of those last minute things that still need to be done?  

~We snuggle.  

Especially those of us whose primary love language is physical touch.

"I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.  Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD."  Psalm 27:13-14

~We look for the ways that we see the goodness of the Lord in this delay.  

I woke up to a text a few days ago saying my grandmother had been taken to the hospital.  With the extra time we've had in Honiara, we've been able to stay well connected with my mom to get updates on Grandmother.  We were also able to use improving technology to call my dad for his birthday.

~We get silly.  

Let's face it.  Moving is hard.  Thinking you are moving, and then putting on the brakes is even harder.  These amazing girls have done that twice in the last week.  We've packed up school books because we thought the Kosco was coming, only to unpack the school books and start back to work again.  Only to hear that the Lavusi was leaving on Friday to pack up the school books again. And now we're delayed at least another 24 hours.  Playing games and being goofy together helps solidify the family bond and also diffuses the stress and grief that comes with our frequent moves.  

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Thoughtful Thursday

Matching lantana and papaya on the breakfast table

"Every day a thousand voices speak into my life and the vast majority of those voices have not gotten the flowers of their insight from the wisdom garden of the Lord."  

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

"While there are immense benefits to putting down roots in a particular place among a particular people (contrary to, and perhaps because of my immensely poor example, I highly recommend it) there are also some potential liabilities -- namely, the narrowing, blinding effect of never being exposed to cultures, peoples, places, skin colors, economic brackets, dialects, philosophies, experiences, and perspectives that those are other can offer us.  

For it is only in drawing near to the other that we gain a fuller appreciation of the imago Dei.  For the imago Dei (image of God) is not contained in any single people group or place, but rather in the faces and stories and triumphs and sorrows of every nation, tribe, tongue, and generation.  Rather than lock us down into a single place and perspective, the nomadic way increases our exposure and broadens our horizons."  ~Scott Sauls  

We're grateful for the many places we've put down roots.  SITAG truly feels like family and home.  I can't imagine working with more dedicated, godly, funny, kind people.  Roxanne and I walked together early this morning and God gifted us with a lovely view as we sweated and chatted together.

But it looks like we're getting ready to be nomads again.  Our translation committee chairman, Belza, called this morning to inform us that the copra ship Lavusi is planning to leave Friday night.  We're holding this agenda very loosely, but preparing full speed ahead to leave for the village on this wooden tub of a boat.  And we're hopefully looking forward to seeing the "faces and stories and triumphs and sorrows" of our Marulaon neighbors this weekend!

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Lent starts next week.  We really hope we are in the village by then. The sunny start to the day was promising for ship travel!  We've had rain and wind almost every day for three weeks, but this morning the sun broke through.  Looks like I'll finally be able to wash my hair in warm water.

This year, Marulaon's feast day falls just before Lent, which means we can celebrate!  We'd love to be able to join our neighbors in the feasting and dancing like we have in the past.   We just have to find a ship going the right direction.

Since living in the village requires all of my mental and physical energy, I won't have any creative juices flowing in the weeks leading up to Easter.  This year, we plan to simply use Sister Wendy's "The Art of Lent" alongside "Whiter Than Snow" by Paul David Tripp.  I really enjoyed focusing on the Penitential Psalms last year, but this year we'll narrow our lens to just Psalm 51.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Sweet Sabbath - Radically Ordinary Hospitality

"Radically ordinary hospitality doesn't keep fussy lists or make a big deal about invitations.  Invitations are open....Practicing radically ordinary hospitality necessitates building margin time into the day, time where regular routines can be disrupted by not destroyed....When radically ordinary hospitality is lived out, members of God's household are told that they are not alone in their struggles or their joys." 
 ~Rosaria Butterfield, "The Gospel Comes With a House Key"

Oh, that's one of my show people that they are NOT alone in their struggles or their joys. This weekend has given us opportunities to come alongside colleagues in both situations.  I love how our SITAG family doesn't really need a reason to celebrate.  The reason given for fireswinging (Olivia continues to be the champion)?  The Choates haven't gotten on the boat yet!  I've always been a strong advocate for celebrations of any sort, and this article helps me articulate why.

With our extra "gift of availability" this weekend, we've been able to offer frequent babysitting services to some of the cutest kids around.  When we thought the boat was leaving on Saturday night, we grieved that we were leaving our SITAG family in the midst of many needs.  But sticking around has given us the opportunity to help out just a little bit.

This morning, we woke up to a brilliant double rainbow as the sun rose behind us and the rain came toward us.  Such a sweet, loving gift from our Creator to begin the day.

"The purpose of radically ordinary hospitality is to build, focus, deepen, and strengthen the family of God, pointing others to the Bible-believing local church, and being earthly and spiritual good to everyone we know.  When our Christian homes are open, we make transparent to a watching world what Christ is doing with our bodies, our families, and our world." ~Rosaria Butterfield

Build.  Focus.  Deepen.  Strengthen.  I love the authenticity and transparency that life here brings.  We discovered this afternoon that an old friend (who used to live next door to us in Dallas) was attending a workshop here at SITAG this week.  So he joined us last minute for supper - the buns that I originally made to eat on the ship.  What's on the table doesn't matter as much as who is around the table.   The food has been simple and the fellowship has been so sweet.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello

So many goodbyes this week.  And so much change. 

We waved goodbye to Henk and Margreet on Monday.  Unexpectedly we said goodbye to Roxanne when her ship announced they were leaving a day early, then said hello to her again when Marine canceled any ship travel because of weather.  Much has been written about saying goodbye and all of the grief that accompanies change.  

We've learned that the Kosco plans to leave on Saturday night, so we've bumped up our timetable.  It's gonna be a close one, folks.  Soon after we leave, so many people that we love will also leave SITAG to return to their passport countries.  We want to say goodbye well.  And we know we will get to say hello again.

We're nurturing the whole person, making sure to take time for exercise, playing together, making good food choices, worshiping together, and reading our Bibles.  Listening to this song on repeat to remind me of where I get my strength.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Rainy Days and Mondays

Getting back to a routine with school and exercise and life feels SO good this morning!  The girls are beginning the last quarter of the school year.  Just nine weeks of the curriculum left to enjoy.  Some of my favorite read-alouds are coming up!  (I dare you to read the first half of "The Westing Game" and put it down without finishing it.)

The rain let up long enough for us to take a nice walk this morning - and my buddy, Roxanne, is here to join us!  So nice to have her back at SITAG, even for a brief visit.  Our family is beginning the food freezing and box packing in hopes that we can find a ship next week that can take us back to Marulaon. 

But it is rainy season around here!  Today's radar reminded me about Tropical Cyclone Uesi, spinning just Southeast of the Solomon Islands. We are doing our best to be prepared so we can be ready with 24 hours notice (or less) and jump on a ship.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Sweet Sabbath

Reynie smiled and glanced over at him.  "We've always come back to this table.  Every time we've gone and done something dangerous together, we've come back here and sat around this table."

"And talked about everything that happened," Sticky said, nodding.  "And enjoyed feeling safe."

They stood in silence for a time, taking in the room together. 

"Let's make sure we do that again," Reynie said.

We celebrated an early birthday for Margreet since she and Henk are leaving the Solomon Islands tomorrow.  I'm still in awe that they keep coming back.  That we get to sit around the table once again and talk about everything that has happened.  That we get to feel safe together.  

That we get to tell stories of the Lord's faithfulness in our lives, even during hard times.  There were no dangerous boat trips this time.  But there was lots of laughter and the traditional birthday cheesecake and games and hard work, shoulder to shoulder.  I think this is a trend we should continue.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

SITAG Conference 2020

"I pray that your partnership in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good things we share for the sake of Christ.  Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you have refreshed the hearts of God's people."  Philemon 1:6-7

After eleven days of crazy wonderful busy, we're coming up for air.  We've loved welcoming people day after day at the airport, helping to provide morning and afternoon tea breaks, and

learning together as Pastor Scott preached through one of my favorite books of the Bible (Colossians).  I'm still blown away that Scott and his lovely wife Carol have been coming to serve SITAG since 2009.  They know what it's like to live here, but they still keep coming back! 

The improving internet cooperated and SITAG had remote members join us for team reports and prayer as well as for listening in and commenting on business sessions.  I had forgotten how precious and unique a voice is.  I haven't heard some of these sweet voices in years, and when those familiar voices chimed in with prayer requests or hellos, I often had trouble holding it together.  Especially when it was the very last report given by a retiring team.

Olivia and Betsy looked after the four littlest SITAG members all day, every day.

We brainstormed as a group and reminded ourselves that the Lord has abundantly blessed the work of Bible translation and Scripture Engagement, which fueled our discussions and plans for the rest of the week.

We watched the Super Bowl a few hours after it actually happened.  And we all cheered for our favorite teams, even if those teams weren't playing in the big game.

Each evening, there was a special activity.  Sometimes it was professional development, sometimes it was a ladies painting fellowship.  We often hosted our colleagues and visitors for supper and listened to their stories about God at work in their lives.

And Friday afternoon, every age and stage gathered to watch the kids perform their closing program: Moses leading the Children of Israel through the Red Sea.  Then we wrapped it all up with sharing communion together.

A fruitful week indeed. 

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.