Monthly Archives: August 2015

Building a Home and a Future

 

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Their hut is like most of the traditional homes in this mountainous area of Papua New Guinea. The sides of the house are a beautiful weave of bamboo mat and the roof is made from stiff, dried grass. It’s a beautiful home, but a temporary one as the walls and roof deteriorate over time. Dishes are washed outside and set out to dry on a platform made from sticks then covered with fresh banana leaves. The shower hole is literally that. A ditch off to the side of the house has been dug and the water dammed off so that a small stream and a jug provide a place for washing.

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Off to the right side of the house, there is a shelter covering neatly stacked boards. Further away, to the left of the hut, the ground has been cleared and posts are cemented in place providing evidence of the beginning construction of a more permanent home. But, apart from the gathered building materials and the cemented posts, nothing more has been done on the house.

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Solomon was three when his father passed away. His sister Naomi was just one. Now they are both a year older and their mother, Ai, wonders what they will do when their village hut begins falling apart. “My current concern,” Ai shared regarding her husband Alfred Doa’s death, “is having the boards how will I as a widow manage to build the house? That troubles me. When the village hut falls apart there is nobody to build. It would have been better if he had built the modern house before his passing.”

Ai and her children live with her mother- in-law, Yasameng, who is also a widow. Her husband passed away when her two children, Alfred and Esther, were very young. The same age as her grandchildren are now. Yasameng remained in her husband’s village not remarrying, but instead she focused on raising her young children. She vividly remembers her thoughts as she sought to raise her children on her own. “Where can we draw strength and support to live life without their dad and my husband?” She remembers thinking. “I thought a lot about what the future would entail.”

Yasameng was invited to join a prayer group and through this group she received the strength and encouragement she needed to face the daily struggle of raising her children as a widow. As they grew, both children were able to finish primary school, although neither had the opportunity to attend high school. Both Alfred and Esther married. Alfred Doa and Ai were married for five years before he passed away a year and a half ago.

“Since Doa’s passing I have again been concerned about my grandchildren,” Yasameng shared, “and also concerned about the project of the house he left uncompleted. Since I’m loosing my strength and advancing in age how will I be able to see these two grandchildren grow up? Who will be able to help support and raise these children?” she asks. “The uncompleted house, with some building materials left behind, is a big concern to me. How will I be able to get the remaining building materials to build the house for my grandchildren?”

In spite of these challenges, Yasameng continues to look to God for strength. “I have come to know that life with God is a huge strength for us,” she shared. “We believe that the Lord will be able to sustain us in life in the midst of all these concerns and worries that we have. However, the practical needs that we have in front of us include raising my grandchildren and gathering the building materials to complete the house- practical needs which still concern me.”

“The building materials are there and I keep looking at them with my eyes,” Yasameng said, “but I can’t do much. If Solomon and Naomi had happened to have been in primary school when their father passed away, it would be a different story, but that wasn’t the case. So much concerns me as a grandmother,” she confessed. “They are still young and I am gradually loosing strength.”

Ai continues to hold on to the dreams that she has for her children. Solomon recently started preschool, and she wants Naomi to receive a good education as well. “My biggest dream is for Solomon to complete his education,” she shared. “And then find a job which can take care of him and his sister. However, in order for him to accomplish such a desire, there is the financial need of his education.” This need continues to concern his mother. “I don’t want him to experience the same thing that happened to his grandfather and his dad. My dream is to help raise the kids so that they can grow up to be a man and a woman who live a healthy and decent life.”

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My husband and I are working to help these two ladies as they seek to raise their children. One practical way we want to help is to finish building their house. We would also love to see Solomon and Naomi complete school. If you feel lead to help this family by sponsoring one of the children’s education or by helping them to finish building their house, please contact us at siruthpotinu@ gmail.com for more information or click here to donate as well.

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Another Nun Deserts the Abbey

It’s a rare thing in life to be blessed with a true, life giving friendship. I’ve been extremely blessed by several and one of those is with you. I guess that’s why I have a twinge in my heart this week as I’m miles away on the week that you’re about to say, “I do” to the love of your life.

I wish I could be there to see you walk down the isle in a room decorated with burlap and lace. I wish I could help you set up tables, iron dresses, and arrange flowers, but, since it’s not always possible to be where you want to be, please know that my thoughts are with you both as you begin this journey together.

You were one of the first people I met when I moved onto the 10th floor of Houghton Hall. One of my first memories with you is getting kicked out of Lincoln Park for rollerblading on the premises. I should have known right then that being friends with you would be adventurous. There was that time you convinced me to chop my hair off, Redbox movie nights, senior retreat, basketball games, two road trips to Georgia, getting our ears pierced on a whim, combined birthdays (my favorite being our trip to San Francisco). I’ll always remember the random Cubs game we went to, Junior/Senoir banquets, graduation, Chicago reunions, the time you stopped to see me on your way to Texas, phone calls, breakfast together on the morning of my big day, and having you standing there with me just eight months ago when I said, “I do.”

Now it’s your turn pretty lady, and (in regard to our college floor The Ten North Nuns) you’ve become the latest deserter of the abbey. I cherish all the memories, but what I probably appreciate the most are all the “little” things like the time I had intended to make brownies for the newspaper staff but in the midst of a crazy week ran out of time. I hurried back from my internship with just enough time to make it to the all night newspaper paste up to find that you had made the brownie for me. Now that’s a true friend. I won’t forget all those early mornings when we were roommates and you had to be at work super early, but you’d get ready so quietly that I barely even noticed. I won’t forget that time I had meant to apply for what I thought would be a dream job, but in the midst of the busyness of everything didn’t apply before the job was given to someone else. You told me to have a good cry and then move on. I needed to hear that.

Thanks for steaming the wrinkles out of my wedding dress and making sure I got some sleep the night before. I needed that too. I wish I could be there to do the same thing for you, but since I’m not able to be there, here are some pearls of wisdom about marriage that I’ve actually found to be useful not just nice sayings to put on the wall. As I was entering an intercultural marriage, I made a point to collect advice from intercultural couples, but I find their answers to be universally helpful so here goes:

Don’t always expect the other person to change, be willing to change yourself- Easy to say, but hard to do. Really though, this piece of advice really stuck with me. It’s so easy to assume that things should be done the way your family does it, or the way you’ve been doing it as a single person, but those single days are over. You’re a new family, so be willing to let go of cultural preferences and family traditions in order to build a new unique life together.

If you want to start a habit, such as reading devotions together or a regular date night, do it early on- Start forming those daily habits early even during the honeymoon because that’s a time when people give you some slack to take the time you need. Life gets crazy, and it’s easy to let things slide if you don’t start early. So, use those early days intentionally.

People (especially those church ladies) can be opinionated and often critical when it comes to issues like when to have kids. Decide what works best for you as a couple and then stand by your decision– Don’t let people imposing their views on you (it will happen and happen often) upset you. With many issues it’s not so much a case of right or wrong, but what works for both of you. At the end of the day you are the ones who have to live with the decisions you make, so focus on what works for you as a couple not on what will please people.

Don’t sweat the small stuff- It’s called small stuff for a reason. Are toothpaste tubes and toilet paper rolls really worth even arguing over? Just let it go. There are bigger things in life to focus on, and if you find that you just can’t stand the whole toothpaste tube squeezed or rolled get your own tube. Find solutions to things not things to nag about. 1st Corinthians 13 says, “love bears all things.” Part of marriage involves getting over yourself and bearing the imperfections of another person. Remember, your spouse is bearing your imperfections too. A little understanding and patience can go along way and help keep everyone sane.

Find the positive side of a negative- Most negatives have a positive it just takes some time and thought to find it. For example, there are times when my husband runs late. I like to be on time and not waste time, so it is easy to see this as a negative trait and be frustrated. But, usually the reason he is running late is because he has stopped to help someone or to talk to someone who needed a kind word. This people oriented heart is one of the traits that I admire most in him. When I stop and realize the reason for the lateness it’s much easier to let go of my feelings of annoyance and appreciate his people oriented instead of time oriented ways.

Communicate- Just about everyone I talked to said this first. No one is a mind reader, so talk about what is on your mind. Marriage involves a lot of adjustments, highs, lows, and everything in between. Talk it out, but also talk during a time when you’re not tired or stressed. Sometimes it’s OK to sleep on it so that the issue can actually be discussed without emotions getting the upper hand.

And finally my own personal pet peeve…

The first year doesn’t have to be the hardest– Maybe it is for some people. I’m sure it can be quite a challenge/adjustment especially for those who marry young, but the idea of, “just survive the first year and then things get better after that,” really bothers me. Enjoy each year don’t be waiting for some inevitable dark cloud to roll in over your honeymoon happiness. Sure, life will change as the months pass, but they are still good times. The first year can be full of such happy memories and adventure as you start building a future together. Don’t loose that by adopting a survival mentality. Take each new day, week, and year as it comes. Most of all enjoy life with your best friend. Wishing you the very best my friend. Enjoy your day and know that I am thinking about you and celebrating with you from miles away.

Too many memories to count.

Too many memories to count.

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That Not so Innocent Green Eyed Monster

Two blog posts caught my attention this past week, and I can’t seem to get them out of my head. The first post was from a mom with a special needs child writing about how she is unable to like pictures posted on facebook of her friend’s children doing things that her own child will never be able to do. It was a touching, honest piece about the struggles of raising a child with unique challenges. But, while I felt for the author, her conclusions did not sit well with me.

The second piece was an equally honest post also by a mother. This mom wrote about her struggle with feelings of heartbrokenness when she saw her friends’ beautifully decorated nurseries while she raised her two kids in a cramped trailer. Due to a tough financial time, she and her husband were unable to give their kids the space and material comforts that they longed to be able to provide which left this young mom feeling inadequate and unable to rejoice with her friends who were blessed with more spacious accommodations.

I feel for these two ladies. Clearly, they love their kidos and long for them to have as “normal” lives as possible. What I cannot agree with is their conclusions that sometimes your own life is too painful to rejoice in other people’s happiness and that these feelings are some how ok. I just can’t agree. It’s good to be honest about struggles, pain and disappointments in life, but allowing a mindset of, “I can only be happy for you when things are going well for me,” is pure poison. Don’t swallow it.

Last month marks 20 years since my beautiful twin sister Allison passed away. The hurt is still so real that I often find it hard to even talk about her without tearing up. It will probably always be this way, but interestingly enough, I’ve often found healing through allowing myself to be friends with other twins. Yes, there are moments that my heart simply aches when I see twins interacting because I miss that special closeness in my own life, but I’m happy for them. My story also adds a perspective to the lives of twins that I’m privileged to meet because in a way it serves as a reminder for them to be extra thankful for their twin which some have taken for granted.

We are all asked to walk different walks and of course most people would not choose the hard path if given a choice. So many couples passionately declare the vows, “for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health,” but do we really mean it? When financial struggles actually hit or one partner’s health mars the dream of a perfect happy-ever-after, too many times divorce follows. The vows were empty syllables. Someone leaves, seeking their happiness elsewhere, claiming that this wasn’t the life they signed up for even though they had previously vowed to stick it out.

Hard times are a reality. It’s unrealistic to expect a fairytale life in a world that is broken by sin. This is why we need people to walk through life with us and not alienate ourselves when things didn’t turn out as expected. The wisest king in history wrote there is, “a time to weep and a time to laugh” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). Be there for the tears as well as the celebrations even when it’s not your celebration. We need to stop entertaining the lie that we deserve certain things in life like healthy kids, a picture perfect house, and the perfect marriage.

Each day is a gift. Each life is different from the next, so live yours not someone else’s. Sometimes the best way to work through pain is to take the focus off yourself and be there for someone else. Cry with them in their pain but also be big enough to rejoice with them when something good is happening in their life even if that same thing isn’t happening in yours. Comparison often leads to jealousy and jealousy can lead to hatred of other people’s lives or even your own life. That tenth commandment about not coveting is there for a reason. God doesn’t want us looking around at other people’s things whether that be a well developing child or a perfectly decorated nursery and wish that it was ours. He gives daily grace to handle what life brings and that should be the focus, not alienating people from your life because they have what you wish you could.

Not to say that life is easy or that pain does not cut deeply. It does, so deeply sometimes. But, it’s not healthy to stay too long in that place of pain. Of course, it’s harder for someone who is struggling with infertility to rejoice with a friend who announces her third pregnancy, but what love when the person is able to do so. There aren’t easy answers at times. Of course we all wish for healthy children and financially secure lives, but Jesus said in John 16:33, “in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have over come the world.” The first part of the verse says, “I have told you these things so that you may have peace.” Maybe those trouble will come now, or maybe they will come later down the road. The question is how will you handle it—with grace and peace or with bitterness? What will you learn from the painful times? Will your response inspire others up or push them way? The enemy wants us to think that we are in this alone. No one else can possible understand our pain, but that’s not true. When one part of the body of Christ is in pain the whole body feels it even down to the tiniest toe. That’s why we need each other. That’s why it’s important to weep together and also to laugh together.

Each situation is unique. Each special needs child has something to teach the world that only he or she can teach. Every financial struggle is a building block for later in life. Honestly, your children will remember your love and time spent together more then they will a cutely painted nursery decked out in pinterest’s latest.

Be YOU and let your friends be them. Your story, especially those painful parts, is unique. Live your life not someone else’s. Laugh through the fun parts and cry through the hard times. Let people cry with you and be open to rejoicing with them as well. It’s a way to heal your own heart. Don’t let the green eyed monster of jealousy take your eyes off the good things that your life has to offer which includes having the grace to rejoice with those around you.

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Filed under Contemplations, Parenting