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Take My Messy Fingers

He loves to “help”, with the dishes that is. As soon as he sees or hears the dish water running he starts crying out, “Trevor, do it, Trevor do it.” In typical toddler fashion water goes everywhere. A dirty bowl somehow ends up on top of his head, clean dishes end up back in the dirty water. But, he loves it. Me—not so much. I let him “help” sometimes. Usually, we make it through the “fun-filled” ordeal. Other times I loose my cool half way through and stick him back on the floor while I hurry to finish the job myself.

I am glad that God has more patience then I do. I cannot help but wonder how helpful my “help” is at time. “Let me do it,” I cry and rush in with excited emotion and the eagerness of a toddler mirrored on my face. But, is my “help” really helpful? Sometimes I look back on the cultural blunders I have made or the relationships that have suffered from misunderstandings and can’t help but wonder, “God am I doing more harm then good?” Yet, He still allows me to be where I am “helping” in spite of the many messes.

That is what we do as parents, right? We allow “help” even though the processes is much messier and much longer then if we just did the task ourselves. Why? Because children learn by example, by doing, by observation, by being close and getting their fingers (and every other possible body part) messy. Slowly, there is maturity. Gradually, the messes take less and less time to clean up. Characters are built, skills are acquired and eventually a child’s help actually does become helpful.

So, this is my prayer, God. Take my messy fingers, my eager but imperfect self and make me more like you. That is what happened with the twelve disciples, right? They were constantly trying to “help” with their bad theology, selfish agendas and short-sited thinking. Thankfully, time with the Master changed them. They matured, grew bold and through them the entire world was changed.

Thank you, Lord, that you never give up on us and that you delight in using the messy fingers of your children.

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The Art of Imitation

IMG_3266She grabbed a long, thin stick and started to sweep our little dirt yard. She tucked her chubby left hand behind her back as she bent down and “swept” just like the grandmas do here, the grandmas with worn out backs that is. I had to smile. It was a bit of a sad smile though. Her mom passed away in May from cancer so now it’s often her elderly grandmother or her nine-year-old sister who carry her and her twin sister around on their backs. All the village mamas, aunties and sisters look after them now—washing them, handing them a piece of fruit. But, life has changed. Instead of learning from their mother, they now look for new lives to copy.

That’s how we learn after all—imitation. My five month old loves to imitate sounds. The “ba” sound is currently his favorite. He does it over and over only stopping to break out in a huge smile. That’s how babies learn. That’s how they learn the language, learn to walk, learn to clap, learn to behave in society—imitation.

“Be imitators of me just as I also am of Christ,” Paul tells his readers in 1st Corinthians 11:1. This is how we must learn. I learned a song as a kid that says, “practice makes perfect, practice makes perfect, so watch what you practice ‘cause perfect you’ll be.” The same is true with imitation. What you imitate is often what you become.

Mahatma Gandhi is quoted to have said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” What a sad analyses. If our lives don’t imitate Christ can we really be called Christians? What do people see when they look at our lives, angry facebook posts and judging looks, or the unconditional love of Christ—the Christ who ate with prostitutes and tax collectors (sinners), the Christ who fed the poor, the Christ who had no earthly home and gave his very life to save the lost. It’s an unreachable standard, of course. He lived a sinless life. We could never do that, but we can mirror his love, imitate his actions, and live his teachings. Then people will look and see a true love, a life worth imitating. They will come to know the Christ through his followers.

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Humbled by Love

My ten-year-old nephew just stopped by our little grass hut, “I want to kill a kakaruk (chicken) for you.” The meal was in need of some rice, so I dragged the 10 kg bag of rice over to the door and scooped three mug fulls into his tin pot. I guess it’s chicken for lunch today.

Since coming to my husband’s village in PNG nearly a week ago, I haven’t cooked a single meal. People stop by the house daily to drop off fresh fruit and vegetables and sometimes even eggs and scones (bread rolls). We ventured into town a few days ago and while shopping I loaded about a week’s worth of boxed chocolate milk into our shopping cart. Life without electricity makes it hard to have a fridge, so I figured that the shelf milk would be a nice way to get some calcium since these boxes don’t need refrigeration. A couple people must have noticed my love for chocolate milk and for the last two days two different family members have dropped by the house to add more boxes of chocolate milk to my growing collection.

It’s so humbling to be shown love in such practical ways. I’m the first foreigner from my husband’s tribe in Papua New Guinea to marry someone from their tribe and then come to live in their village. To be honest, everyone’s kind reception has been so overwhelmingly loving. A generous crowd met us at the airport hugging us and crying with joy. We then piled into two buses which took us from the airport into town. In town, we caught another couple of buses which took us as close to the village as the roads allowed. From the end of the road we walked. As we got closer to the village, first the kids appeared yelling their welcome and running to greet us.

Further up the road we meet the mothers and some of the elderly men of the village. Even though rain was starting to fall, they stood on the road waiting to greet us. Only one little girl started to scream when she saw me. She had never seen a white person before, and I guess the experience left her a bit frightened.

Coming down the main hill to the village the light rain turned the mountain path into a bit of a slip and slide. When I started to slip, two people grabbed my hands and helped me make it down the mountain in one piece. It’s humbling to feel so helpless needing basic assistance for something as simple as walking down the road, but it’s so beautiful to see such kind demonstrations of love. Yesterday, when we were out on that same road two of the guys had taken the time to cut steps all the way up the slippery part of the path so that I could walk up and down the hill without any problems. It’s hard to even find words to express my gratitude except to say that I’m so humbled by everyone’s love.

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Once we made it down the path and through the welcoming arms of everyone who came out to say hello I was shown to our new house—a beautiful two bedroom grass hut complete with passion fruit and oranges hanging from the ceiling as a welcome gift. Again, I was blown away. We had told everyone that we were fine staying with my husband’s mom until we had a chance to build our own house, but my husband’s brothers decided that we needed our own place to live in until we have time to build something more permanent. Again, I was blown away—such love. I am humbled and grateful to have been given so much especially by people who, according to the world’s economic standards, have so little. What love.

Our beautiful little hut

Our beautiful little hut

What a welcome

What a welcome

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Here’s to Love

Wrote this several years ago but these are still my thoughts on Valentines Day so I thought I’d share it again.

SimplyContemplating

There are plenty of blogs floating around the cyber world lamenting the state of being single on Valentine’s Day, and I’ve seen enough “I have the best husband in the word” facebook posts to make me question just how many best husbands can live on a single planet. To me both the “Woe is me, I can’t get a date” group and the “look everyone and be jealous” group seem a tad self focused and well, a little insecure. If you’re really so in love please get off facebook and spend sometime with your man, and if you want a date so badly why not try picking up the phone and asking someone out. I don’t want this post to be a rant, so I’ll stop there. What I do want to say is love is beautiful and painful. It’s often messy and usually quite unexplainable which is no surprise…

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Unsupervised Memories

She thought we were a school out on a weekend camping trip. I smiled and said “no, we’re from a children’s home.” I’m sure we looked like a school 17 kids 5 adults, four big tents, and an extra tent for all the food. The kids had Monday off school due to a holiday so kind of on a whim Alyssa and I decided to organize a camping trip.

The weekend was a blast. We camped on the lake, the kids sang songs the entire hour drive from our house to the camp sight. We split up into teams and thanks to Alyssa enjoyed everything from a scavenger hunt to three legged races. The kids made friends with some of the other campers, and we spent a lot of time on the boat dock just hanging our feet in the water.

I have to confess that my favorite part of the camping trip was actually when Jeremy and his friend Jason took the kids for awhile while Alyssa, Ruthann, and I escaped to enjoy some amazing food at the restaurant attached to the camp site. I have to say I was a little apprehensive leaving 17 kids with the guys. All I could think of was the giant lake and Jeremy’s philosophy of letting the kids run free. But, I let go (sort of) I’m learning anyway and for a sweet hour and a half I enjoyed some good girl talk and some incredibly amazing tacos.

When we came back, Jason was sitting on the grass with a couple of kids and Jeremy had gone off to take a shower. The kids had scattered—climbing trees, sitting on the dock, playing with new friends, trying to catch fish with a stick. They were all happy, having fun, and everyone was still in one piece. So I relaxed, let them be kids and worked on not worrying as much. It’s a freeing feeling (a bit scary) but at the end of the day it’s nice knowing that I can trust my kids to be responsible and as hard as it is for me I’m learning to step back a little. I’m working on letting go of having to know where they are every second. I’m learning to let them make their own memories and enjoy some times of just being unsupervised kids.

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The Only Story I Have

6/23/13

“Tell us a story,” he said. My mind went blank. I thought back to the time when I loved nothing better than sitting in the back of a pick up truck surrounded by my brothers and sisters making up story after story as the truck bounced along the red Congo roads.

A story… now all those make believe tales seemed flat, and the only story I wanted to tell was theirs.

We took a walk today the whole tribe of us minus two. Ruthann took the lead looking her usual confident and beautiful self with two kids clinging to each hand and the rest floating around her.

I brought up the back. A newcomer to the Sunday walk, but loving the feeling of two little hands in mine as we walked along the dirt road jumping mud puddles and enjoying the view. I almost lost a flip flop at one point when I miss judged the depth of a puddle. I managed not to lose it completely, and we went on our way past the kid’s school and down towards town. Ruthann left the kids piled up by the bank of the road while she and I ducked into a shop to buy some batteries. The Duka’s (shops) are barely big enough for five people to fit in and the owner sells his goods through a barred window.

The first shop did not have batteries, but the store keeper directed us two stores down. This time we were successful AA’s for 60 shillings (about 70 cents). Now the boys would be able to finish their haircuts. The razor’s battery had given out halfway through leaving two of the boys with partially shaved heads (a sight I’m sure our guests had wondered about earlier in the day when they dropped in unexpectedly). No one had said anything, but I’m sure they were wondering if some new hair style was going around.

After purchasing batteries, we rejoined the kids and headed back down the road. Once again, Ruthann looked like the pide-piper just without the pipe. We of course got looks from people as we walked along—two girls in their twenties and 15 kids parading down the road. We passed the 2 in 1 butchery, and I had to wonder what the second half of the business entailed.

“Make a hole,” Ruthann would yell back, and the kids would part to make room for a bicycle, piki (motorcycle), or a donkey cart. At this point in the walk the two kids holding my hands had switched to two different kids. We took the scenic route back, and by the time the Children’s home was in sight my group of four of the smaller ones was singing and playing with sticks they had picked up on the side of the road.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to tell any other stories for awhile Diki, Kevin, Zippi, Jane, Zach, Nicholas, Veronica, Ruth, Samuel, John, George, Little Kevin, Charity, Virginia, Michelle, Esther, and James have completely captured my heart.

The only story I have

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Tackling a 5K

This week I signed up for my first 5K run. The scary thing is the race is in two weeks. Hopefully I haven’t gotten myself into something I can’t handle, but it’s good to take on something new. At least that is what I am telling myself right now. Who knows what I’ll be saying two weeks from Saturday.

I think I am starting to catch the Olympic fever which is crazy seeing as the opening ceremony is still about three weeks away. There is something so inspiring about seeing so many skilled athletes from all over the world come together to compete. It’s incredible to see just how far the human body can be pushed to accomplish amazing feats of speed, grace and power.

Gymnastics is my favorite summer Olympics sport but swimming and track events come in a close second and third. Actually, I’m not usually a huge sports fan but the time and commitment that Olympians put into their sport in order to compete at such a high level makes it so inspiring just to watch.

But back to the 5K, I know it’s probably a little crazy to plan on running over three miles in the heat when you don’t have to, but sometimes you just need to push yourself. It’s so easy to go through life on automatic pilot doing the same thing day after day staying where it’s comfortable and safe. But, while automatic pilot is safe it’s not very adventurous. Since life is relatively short I think it’s good to go out and have some adventures along the way. People will probably tell you you’re crazy and that you should do the same things that everyone else is doing, but what is the fun in that?

Different doesn’t always mean bad. Doing something you’ve never done before can be a really good thing. Goals help you learn. They help you succeed and go much farther in life than you would on auto pilot. I don’t want to wake up one day and wonder where life went. I want to have stories to tell maybe even some funny ones from when I tried for something way out of my reach and messed up royally.

I’m excited for this challenge. I enjoy running but I don’t have very good endurance, so this race will definitely be a stretch for me, but it’s good to be stretched. I don’t have any desire to run a marathon or compete on a more serious level. I’ll leave that to the Olympians, but  in the meantime we’ll see if I’m able to meet my little goal.

Once the race is done, I plan on curling up with a bowl of chocolate ice cream (proudly wearing my new Hoops for Life 5K t-shirt) and watching the Olympics. I love to see history being made when a gymnast nails a landing. I want to see speed records shattered, but most of all I want to hear stories of people who overcame difficult obstacles to be up on that podium or even out on the track, field, or gym mat. Someone once said, “success isn’t how far you got, but the distance you traveled from where you started.”

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