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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Cold tea

Everything has taken a back seat—blogging, sleep, the bread making ministry, answering emails and oh yeah did I mention SLEEP. I really miss it. I mean really, really miss it. The freedom to just take a nap or sleep in sounds so heavenly, but I guess that’s just not reality right now. Yeah, my little guy will sleep for fairly long periods at a time, sometimes. Other days not so much.

Some days I feel like I can handle it and other days I don’t handle it well at all. My brain feels like it’s in a constant state of fuzz and it takes everything in me to just perform basic tasks. Is it worth it? Of course, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. I know it’s just a season. Someday, some glorious, blessed day my little guy will sleep through the night and I’ll be so shocked that I’ll probably get up five times anyway just to check on him. Life, what do you do? Seriously what do you do?

You hold on, I guess. Even if it’s just by your pinky finger—you hold on. You remember that even though life doesn’t seem fair at times, and it’s far from easy that this is it. And, when the fog does lift a little and your more normal state of mind returns it really is so wonderful. Those satisfied grins keep you going at 2am. Those little fingers wrapped around yours mean more then words can express. When he does fall asleep after crying, and crying, and crying there’s a beautiful, angelic peace and you ask yourself why were you so overwhelmed two seconds ago. He’s a perfect angel. You learn to be OK with stopping in the middle of projects. You learn not to plan so much. You learn to take five minute showers. You learn to write shorter blogs and drink cold tea. You learn to just hold on. What else can you do? It’s worth it. It’s a season, a season of learning that you’re not as strong as you thought you were and you learn to be ok with that.

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Just Enjoy Your Breakfast

It was one of those mornings. I hadn’t even made it through breakfast, and I already felt overwhelmed. January was full of birthdays to celebrate, meetings to attend, and ministry opportunities. February—well, February stared back at me blankly. Apart from counting the days until my parents’ and mother-in-law’s arrival, (we’re ecstatic to see everyone) the calendar is painfully empty. It’s a waiting game. When will he come? A week from today? Tonight? Two weeks? No telling. We wait.

With 90 degree weather, water rationing, and frequent power blackouts, I’d rather this baby come sooner then later. I feel huge. It’s hard to sleep. The neighbors seem to think that playing their music at night club volumes (at all hours of the day and night) is somehow OK.

“I just don’t know how I’m going to make it through the next month” I told my husband.

“Don’t think about it so much,” he told me. “Just enjoy breakfast.”

Simple advice, but so true. I slowly stopped feeling so sorry for myself and just enjoyed my pancakes. The day ended up being a pleasant one, and on Sunday morning, without any warning, our noisy neighbors moved out. A cool wind blew in while we were at church sending tiny white flowers sailing through the open windows. That soothing wind was followed by a sweet, gentle rain.

It’s a moment by moment kind of life, and yet I’m always so tempted to live in the future worrying about problems that may or may not even come to pass. So many times tomorrow ends up just taking care of itself. That’s not to say don’t plan for the future or set goals, but just a reminder not to let tomorrow’s potential problems steal the joy from today.

Enjoy your breakfast. Enjoy those little memories that make life what it is. In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray for their daily bread. I tend to get so focused on the monthly needs at times that I miss that simple but beautiful promise of daily bread. There are times that we don’t have the money we “need” for groceries for the month, but we have what we need to buy lunch. And, somehow every time when tomorrow does arrive those needs are taken care of.

It’s a fascinating process learning to live not driven by worry but by thankfulness. I have such a long way to go when it comes to learning to live this way, but it does lift a huge burden when you really can let go of the worry and just be thankful for the pancakes in front of you. Life has its seasons. Enjoy each one without letting tomorrow’s potential worries keep you from the simple joys of today.

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Perfect Love

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Sitting in a plastic chair trying not to think too much. Hospitals, pain, the unknown—sometimes I feel myself consumed by fear. I was barely showing but many of the ladies around me had huge bellies, and I thought to myself, “can I really do this.”

Fear—it’s no joke. Pain is hard to ignore. The unknown—how do you prepare when you don’t know what to prepare for?

But, as I sat there trying not to think too much the words—perfect love casts out fear popped into my head. Perfect love—love the opposite of fear.

Fear tears down.

Love heals.

Fear destroys.

Love creates.

Love gives confidence.

Fear debilitates.

It’s as simple as that.

“There is no fear in love.” 1 John 4:18 says. “But perfect love drives out fear.”

So that’s the answer. Not as much a change of circumstances, but a change of perspective—a change of attitude. The unknown, the pain, the reality of the future is still as real as it was yesterday but today, this year, this moment I want to choose love. I’m tired of being consumed by fear and things that I can’t change. This year I choose to let love get me through. Perfect love, the love of the Father. The love we can only know because He first loved us.

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Don’t Live a Dead Faith

There is a custom in my husband’s tribe when it comes to nicknames. If you share, say an orange, with a friend from that moment on instead of calling that friend by his or her given name you can agree to call each other “Orange”. The tradition can go even further. You can agree that if one of you forgets and uses the person’s name instead of the new nickname the person who forgets then has to buy the other person say a coke or whatever is agreed upon.

So when you hear someone called “peanut” or “carrot” you know that at one point, usually early on in the friendship, they shared that particular food. The little guy we have been taking care of for the last several months calls one of our neighbors “Lolly” the name of a favored gum because when we first moved in she shared a lolly with him.

I had been in Papua New Guinea less than two weeks when my brother-in-law organized a welcome gathering for me. My husband’s tribe is about an hour flight from the capital city where we were, but a lot of tribesmen and their families live in the city and many turned up to the gathering to officially welcome me to the Kukilka tribe. It was one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever been apart of. As we ate chicken, caucau (sweet potatoes) kumu (greens), and bananas, several people got up and gave speeches thanking me for joining their tribe and expressing their gratitude that I was willing to leave my family and country and join them by choosing to live in Papua New Guinea.

I first met Alex that night. He broke a cooking banana (called a Kenga) in half and shared it with me. Now we call each other Kenga. Alex is a taxi driver. He and his wife have two children a girl who is in seventh grade and a little boy who is five. Alex’s brother recently died of a heart attack, and earlier this year tests showed that Alex has a blocked coronary artery putting him in danger of this same fate unless something is done soon.

In the past, this life giving procedure was not available in Papua New Guinea. Those who could afford it flew to another country to have the surgery done which of course costs an enormous amount of money. Now the hospital here in the city is able to perform the operation. At the end of this month several doctors from Australia are traveling to Papua New Guinea specifically to help people with this condition. Alex is now on the list to see these doctors when they come and hopefully get the treatment that he needs. The trouble is that, as a taxi driver, Alex doesn’t have the 45,000 PNG Kina (around 15,000 US dollars) needed for the operation and hospital stay.

My husband put together a committee to help Alex raise the needed funds. So far the committee/community has raised about one ninth of what is needed. One thing that we seek to do as missionaries here in PNG is to help people rethink certain mindsets and behaviors. Helping Alex is one practical way of doing just that. My husband doesn’t want to see people just contributing to someone’s funeral after they have left this earth, but to take action and take care of their families and tribesmen while they are still with us. Change can happen. Lives can be saved, but it takes action not just talking. It takes people being willing to “put their money where their mouth is.” Like the Biblical book of James says, “faith without works is dead.” We don’t want to live a dead faith. We serve a living God. A God of action and as children of God we need to be active as well. Not just praying about things but doing what we can to actually bring change.

There are just two more weeks left to raise the needed amount for this operation, but I’m excited to see how God will work through His people to bring in what is needed. If you would like to contribute to this need. You can do so online by clinking here. Any amount is appreciated. It’s a big need and a daunting goal at times especially with the time limit, but God has a way of working through His people in a big way. He has already started to do this, and I am excited to see how He continues to work. It’s a story. His story and our story. It’s excited to be apart of change and to be able to see a man given a second chance at life.

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Popcorn Man

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We’ve been working on learning letters. “B” and “P” ended up sounding the same, so I tried saying “P” popcorn over and over. I guess my little guy liked the sound of the word popcorn. It made him laugh. As far as I know, he has never had popcorn before in his life. But, it is a fun word to say; and it did the trick of distinguishing the letters “B” and “P”.

When I first meet Bradley, I was told that he was deaf and a little bit mute. He didn’t communicate much at first. He played by himself more then he did with other kids and ran around naked most of the time. Adults tended to put up with his quirky behaviors to a certain extent but would then chase him off to go and play somewhere else.

People simply called him Boss. So much so that it took me awhile to find out his given name. He responded much quicker to Boss then he did to Bradley, and seemed content to go about his day climbing trees and drifting from place to place.

Our hut quickly became his new favorite attraction, thanks to the abundance of fruit that people had given us. Other village kids were shy when it came to interacting with me. Some of them had never seen someone with my skin and hair color before. When sharing our wealth of fruit with the neighbor kids, they would come up shyly and respectfully say thank you, giggle, and then run back to playing. Not Bradley. First thing in the morning he would run up to our hut grab the orange or passion fruit and hang around for more. He became my little shadow tilting his head back and forth and looking up at me with his irresistible little grin. After a while someone would chase him off telling him to go home and put some clothes on. He usually came back wearing an oversize t-shirt and would hang around some more.

Even though people told me he didn’t speak properly I couldn’t tell much of a difference because I only knew a few words in my husband’s local language. I communicated with him like I did with the other kids—mostly smiles and gestures. One day I was rewarded with a big hug from my new little friend.

When our time in the village was coming to an end, Bradley’s parents and grandmother agree to let us take him back with us to the capital city. We hadn’t planned on doing this, but seeing Bradley’s need for some one-on-one attention really tugged at our hearts.

We’re not sure how long Bradley will stay with us. Today marks four months of having him as apart of our little family. To tell the truth it’s been an exhausting, but rewarding experience. Everything was new for him—the plane ride, turning on a light switch, turning on a water faucet, wearing shoes. Communication has been a huge challenge, but Bradley has improved so much. He is not deaf and definitely not mute. As time has passed, he has learned quite a bit of Pidgin English and some English as well. He’s slowly learning to play with the neighbor kids here. “No hitting, no pushing, and no pinching” are still frequently used phrases, but they are slowly starting to sink in. He makes friends wherever he goes (the casher at the grocery store, the security lady at the local nature park). He just runs up and starts interacting with people in his own little way, and his contagious belly laugh over the smallest things usually wins them over.

We’ve almost got the alphabet down. The other day in the grocery store I saw a bag of unpopped popcorn and asked Bradley if he wanted to try it. “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” was his response as he shook his hands up and down in excitement. He liked it—the popping sound, the fluffy white popped kernels, but mostly he just liked gobbling it up as most five-year-olds do. I left him unsupervised for less then five minutes and came back to half a container of salt poured into one of the bowls of popped popcorn. Oops, my bad. Note to self, don’t leave the salt anywhere near where he can reach it. But, the popcorn and abundance of salt were mostly salvageable. He’s a handful no denying that. But, even on the extremely overwhelming days when my husband and I ask ourselves, “what were we thinking?!” the reward of seeing him improve each and every day makes it so worth it. I love my little popcorn man.

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Even So… He Sees

We got up before the sun, even though our flight left in the afternoon. An hour hike up the mountain, waiting for a bus that ran on a sporadic/no schedule, a half hour bus ride into town, and then another bus out to the airport left me feeling exhausted long before the plane’s tires   kissed the runway goodbye. I stayed awake for the two complimentary cookies and plastic cup of juice before my eyes closed for the rest of the 45 minute flight.

During our three week stay in my husband’s village, our landlady had sent us a text saying that her house, where we had been renting a room, was currently under foreclosure. “Please send someone to collect your belonging and pick up your car.” So we did, and kind friends allowed us to keep our things in their house until we made it back to the capital city.

We’ve been working with widows in the city of Port Moresby since April seeking to encourage them and help with their physical needs as we are able to, but it’s ironic how often the widows we work with end up helping us. Before we left to visit my husband’s village, one of the widows we had recently connected with offered to let us stay in one of her rental properties. A god-sent, as it turned out, since apparently our current housing accommodations were no longer an option.

We arrived from the airport to our new home which had been furnished with new sheets, pillows, dishes, some cooking pots, and even a warm meal of chicken and chips (French fries) from Big Rooster (Papua New Guinea’s version of KFC). After an overly steady diet of sweat potatoes that meal tasted heavenly.

I recently finished reading, “The God Who Sees You” by Tammy Maltby. I didn’t even know I owned the book. My husband must have downloaded it on to the kindle during the days when we had high speed Internet and downloading free kindle books was a fun rainy day activity (those were the days…) I never cry when I’m happy or when something really just touches me. Ask my sister. One of my favorite activities is making her cry during those happy/sweet movie endings that bring softer souls to tears. Not me. I’m a die hard dry eye, but this book literally made me weep in spots (I blame pregnancy hormones of course).

Taken from the story of Hagar in Genesis chapter 16, the idea behind the book “The God Who Sees You” comes from Hagar’s encounter with the angel of the Lord in the desert after she ran away from her abusive mistress Sarai. The angel meets her in the dessert, acknowledges her pain, promises that the baby she is carrying will become the father of a great nation, and encourages her to return to her mistress. In response, Hagar refers to God as the God who sees saying, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me” (Genesis 16:13 ESV). From then on the well where she encountered God was called Beer-lahai-roi which translates—the well of the Living One who sees me.

It’s interesting to note that God did not remove Hagar’s difficult circumstances, in fact He told Hagar to return to her far from ideal life, but He promised hope. First, he showed her that her circumstances had not gone unnoticed; and secondly He promised that good would come to her life. Her descendants would be so numerous that they would be uncountable. Not a smooth ride, her future. It required returning to a hard situation, but now it was a situation with purpose and promise in the midst of difficulty.

Sometimes all we want is the smooth ride, the easy “blessed” life, but, God, He wants more for us. He wants to write a story in our lives. He wants to build a nation and our little troubles are just a part of the bigger picture designed to bring Him glory. But, that doesn’t mean that He doesn’t see us in our struggles, from little things like exhaustion to bigger things like abuse and sickness. He sees us. He knows us. He carries us through often using small gestures like a meal of chicken and chips as a reminder that He’s got us. We did not know that the house where we had been staying would be taken over by the bank while we were away, but He did; and He already had a perfect solution in place through one of the very ladies who He had sent us to this country to help. It’s mind blowing sometimes to take a step back and look at all those “little” things. They aren’t little of course. They are big reminders in an often unstable world that He is God, and He is the God who Sees.

So lovely to finally have a home to hang up this precious engagement gift. It has traveled from Northern Ireland to Kenya then to the US and Australia. Now it is finally out of its box and on display in Papua New Guinea. It is hand painted and made from slate from Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland the place where my husband and I first started to get to know each other.

So lovely to finally have a home to hang up this precious engagement gift. It has traveled from Northern Ireland to Kenya then to the US and Australia. Now it is finally out of its box and on display in Papua New Guinea. It is hand painted and made from slate from Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland the place where my husband and I first started to get to know each other.

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