Tag Archives: Travel

When God answers “Yes” and it Hurts

It was a year ago today that I was enjoying one of the most thoughtful gifts anyone had ever given me. My aunt paid for me to fly across PNG and paid for my registration fee so that I could attend a Thrive Retreat, an amazing retreat designed to encourage and sustain North American women who work around the globe. I almost did not go. It was my first time spending a night (well three nights) away from my son, but my husband graciously encouraged me to go and the time was incredibly refreshing. I had an amazing roommate who also knew what it was like to live in a remote village. The speakers were challenging, the music uplifting and the small group discussions were especially life giving. Just being with other women who understood the joys and challenges of living and working in a country different from your passport country was beyond incredible. In our small group discussions, we were encouraged to honestly share prayer needs or personal struggles. I remember sharing how hard it had been for me to make friends in the expat community.

During my first year in PNG, after spending a good chunk of time in my husband’s village (where I am the only foreigner) I was so excited to attend a conference which was being held on one of the larger missionary bases in PNG. The conference was over the 4thof July weekend, and I was so excited about the possibility of connecting with some fellow Americans around my same age. As the days drew to a close, I found myself surprised at how hard the expat community, in which you have no connections, can be to break into. In PNG, I find that it is easy to get to know someone new. When someone comes into a room they often take the time to personally shake hands and greet each person there. Then there is the Wantok system where if you are travelling and see someone else from PNG or someone carrying a bilum (a string bag from PNG) often there is an instant connection and friendship simply because you are from the same place. This beautiful idea does not exist among Americans. Without having a previous connection or a mutual friend it is rare for two strangers, even from the same place, to strike up a conversation. I felt this deeply as I stood in line at the grocery store on the mission base. I was surrounded by Doritos and other familiar brand names that I had not seen in months. Two Americans around my age laughed and talked loudly in the line in front of me. Everywhere I looked, I saw people who looked similar to me and a lifestyle that felt familiar. But, even though we shared a common space and accent; no one made the effort to even say a simple, hello. No one bothered to ask me where I was from. I went away from that conference with several new PNG friends, but not a single new expat contact. As I shared a bit of this experience with my new small group friends at the conference, (several of whom lived on the very base I had visited) my group leader commented that often, “it takes a friend to be a friend.” Wise words that reminded me that maybe I needed to be more intentional at pursuing friendships with expats and not just expecting them to magically happen or waiting for someone else to always initiate.

Less then two months later, God answered my prayers for an expat friend in a similar stage of life. My heart longed for someone who understood the joys and pains of raising toddlers, someone with whom I could have a conversation with without worrying so much about saying something culturally inappropriate, a friend to pray with and pray for and a friend to share things with. God graciously allowed me to meet Erin. I first met Erin’s husband at a Bible Study that I love but do not often have the chance to attend. When I heard that their family had two boys one just a bit older then my son and the other just a two months old I got excited about the possibility of meeting someone who could relate to late-night feedings and attempting to have a conversation while managing an active toddler.

We met for the first time at the Bible study Christmas party. My almost two year old had never seen a Christmas tree before. He loved the colored “balls” and with lightening speed managed to throw and break several of the ornaments on the tree in the lobby of where we were meeting before I could get to him. Great first impression, right? But somehow in the midst of sweeping up broken Christmas ornaments and attempting to get toddlers to, “please just eat something.” We managed to exchange numbers and a friendship started to grow.

Now, nearly a year later; I cannot even properly express how much this beautiful friendship has meant to me. Our boys have become best buddies (even though half the time they are fighting with each other). We have laughed together, cried together, prayed for each other and shared so many sweet every day memories. As we’ve celebrated birthdays, enjoyed play dates, and have had many fractured conversations while our boys also bonded; my heart is just so thankful for Erin and what her friendship has meant to me this past year. Erin, and her whole family really, have an incredible gift of hospitality and connecting people. Through her I’ve meet even more incredible friends who have become like family.

And now they are moving. Her husband recently accepted a new job in a different country and, as often happens in the expat community, we got together recently for one more goodbye party. It hurts to see them leaving. Honestly, I’m still probably in a bit of denial about the whole thing; but I know God has great plans for their family as they start this next journey and I’m just so thankful that our paths crossed. We do not know when we will see each other next. Maybe we will have to take a trip to Canada to catch up again if our home assignments ever overlap. But another thing you learn when your life involves a lot of traveling is that friendships, the real ones anyway, continue even over distances of thousands of miles. God brought us together, and I am sure He will allow our paths to cross again in the future.

We have an Irish wall hanging up in our living room that a good friend gave to my husband and me as an engagement present. As people weave in and out of our lives the words serve as a fitting reminder that God goes with us and watches over us wherever our journeys take us.

 

May the road rise to meet you

May the wind be always at your back

May the sun shine warm upon your face

And the rain fall soft upon your fields

And until we meet again

May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.

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Reduced to Fragments

My fingers smelled dusty. An old papers and torn movie tickets kind of dusty. As I sat on the floor of my childhood bedroom sorting through shoes boxes of papers and odds and ends from high school and college days, I came across a yellow sticky note with the words “reduced to fragments” scribbled on it. “That’s how I feel,” I thought to myself—“fragmented.”

Pieces here, pieces there—part of my heart always stays back in the US when we get on that airplane. In the US I have the ability to jump in a car and easily spend time with family and friends I have grown up with, people who know my history; people who have walked with me through the bumpy spots.

I would be lying if I said I did not miss the hot showers and machines that wash your clothes with the push a button. I love the ability to wear jeans without worrying if it will offend someone. I love walking into a store and buying eggs without calculating the exchange rate in my head. Then, of course, there is the luxury of high speed Internet and a million food choices. Maybe it is good for my waistline that our trip has a clear end date.

Now, time in Australia is a buffer as we wind up our furlough and prepare to head back to Papua New Guinea in October. As fragmented as it feels at times, overall; it has been an amazing trip—road trips, new memories, new friends, and new interest in what God has us doing in PNG.

I’m ready now as all these pieces float together to form some sort of fluid picture I am ready to return. As fragmented as this life may seem at times, all the pieces and places are important—each one giving its own flavor and flare.

It’s true life can be reduced to the fragments that make us who we are—culture, family history, experiences and memories. The past is the past. The future has its own stories to offer.

So I am taking this new day, this chapter of the story, and choosing to live in the present—thankful for what each place has to offer. Thankful for this fragmented now.

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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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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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The Unexpected

“Keep an open mind and ‘expect the unexpected,’” my brother-in-law phoned to tell me the night before we flew out. I’d heard this motto before. Papua New Guinea is nicknamed The Land of the Unexpected, and it’s a fitting phrase for such a diverse nation.

Even though I’d heard so much about my husband’s home country I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I’ve spent a lot of time in Congo and Kenya and was familiar to an extent with their language and cultures, but this was new territory on the complete opposite side of the world from the places familiar to me.

As our short flight from Brisbane glided toward the island’s coast, I was amazed to see so much green and so many mountains jutting, it seemed, right from the ocean’s coast. We landed and entered an airport that was clearly under construction. In fact the whole city seems to be under construction. With the South Pacific games set to be held in Port Morseby, there are construction projects happening all over this costal town. As we have driven by the several unfinished stadiums several comments have been made as to whether all the project will be finished on time, but no one seems too worried.

A giant television screen in front of what will be the main stadium counts down the days, hours, and seconds until the opening ceremony on July 4th. Billboards around town proudly announce that Port Morseby is “games ready.” There’s an atmosphere of expectancy mingled with a touch of uncertainty, but it’s clear that Morseby is a growing town egger for growth and opportunity.

There has been so much growth in this city that one of the city’s biggest problems is housing. Even for a small place, rent is high. Some people live in what are called settlements—crowed, make-sift communities known for higher crime rates. Thankfully, through one of my husband’s friends, we were able to rent out a spare bedroom in someone’s house for the price that I used to paid in the US for a two bedroom apartment. But, it’s in a safe area and our little space has a beautiful view looking out over the sea.

I must admit things haven’t always gone as expected. I was hoping for our own place—a place to finally unpack our five suitcase. I was hoping to finally have our own kitchen and bathroom something we haven’t had in our almost six months of marriage. I was hoping to set up a warm environment where we could have people stop by and just chat over a cup of tea. Maybe that will come someday.

For now I’m learning to be thankful—thankful for the friendliness of people I just met allowing us to stay in their home. I’m thankful for a safe place to live, and I’m thankful for an unexpected beautiful ocean view.

For now those other dreams will have to wait. It seems like there is still some more living out of a suitcase time that needs to happen in the mean time.

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Accidental Early Bird

Jet lag has me up before 5am. I’ve discovered that I’m only a morning person when adjusting for the first few days from jet lag. Funny enough as much of a night owl that I am I always seem to enjoy those early mornings when I am accidentally up and vow to make it more of a habit.

Those vows never seem to last very long though. There’s a beautiful clam as the purple clouds begin to rise and the birds chirp away. The street outside is quiet. Everything is still, and the rush of the coming day seems far enough away that it’s possible to enjoy just a few moments of peace—the peace of the unknown but promising day ahead, the peace of a subtle stillness that if tapped into can carry you through the day.

A new day. A fresh start with things yet to be discovered. Maybe I’ll remember how good this early morning feels and tap into it more often in the future (we’ll see). Or, maybe it will take another trip in order for me to enjoy a sunrise again. Either way, I’m here now and thankful to God for a new morning with new potential and new memories yet to be made.

Up with the birds

Up with the birds

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Those Simple Breaths

Thanks to Treena and Josh Ditto of Angelic Images for the lovely engagement photo

Thanks to Treena and Josh Ditto of Angelic Images for the lovely engagement photo

It’s been months since I’ve blogged. A first for SimplyContemplating, I know, but thanks everyone for hanging in with me while I road out the joyously painful road of wedding planning, Pintrest projects, and those inevitable last minute panics.

It was worth every second though. Thanks to so many helping hands (special thanks to mom, my incredible bridesmaids and attendants, out of town family and friends, dad, siblings, church family the list goes on) the wedding came together almost magically, and I couldn’t have enjoyed it more. Really, having so many close friends and family there was an incredible gift and my husband and I both felt so blessed.

It’s a bit hard entering the blogging world again after taking a lengthy break. I want to come back with some kind of profound truth or fresh insight to make up for the silence, but all I have are little things, memories, moments, the thoughts of a content traveler picking out a new road.

It has been a couple months of celebration and new beginnings—a new last name, packing and unpacking, road trips, plane tickets, paperwork, and lots of time waiting. But, in the midst of all the big things I have to say some of the little moments have been my favorite. Eating cashews and drinking coke as my husband and I took yet another road trip. Getting lost and learning how to communicate under the stress of traffic and frustration (that’s still a work in progress for me). Watching just about every episode of Monk together and the sadness of reaching the end. Washing dishes, washing the car, and playing cards with my grandparents—all little breaths of life. Pieces of us coming together to make the mundane special. Learning to stop and enjoy the little things because all those little things make life what it is.

I’ve missed blogging. Having people to connect with over the joy of words and a shared life is something that will always be a part of me. Thanks as always for reading and for sharing your moments as well. What have been some of your favorite little moments this year? Don’t forget to stop during the day and simply take a breath. Freeze the scene around you, and soak for a second or two in that moment.

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