Archive for May, 2014

May 26, 2014

Stones of Remembrance

by mendibpng

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Our son Noah (above) graduates from grade six next week…I found this picture of him in the rain at age 4 when I was looking for pictures to send in for his class slide show. He is not only transitioning to the U.S. this month, but he is finishing his Primary School days.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about our upcoming furlough. I know I’ve probably said it before, but it’s worth repeating…it’s really hard to stay in the ‘here and now’ when there is so much involved in getting ready for the next big thing, which is literally moving our family from this side of the world to the other.

A few things I’ve realized:

  1. Traveling with five children is trickier than I ever thought (and we haven’t even left yet!). Being a family of seven means we won’t fit into a medium sized car, or even one hotel room. Thankfully for most of our trip home, we will be able to stay with family and friends and either travel with them or use local transportation!
  2. Making airplane bookings is agonizing from this distance! Having been gone from the US for four years makes us wonder when the best time is to buy or whether we would use a travel agent or book everything ourselves. Thankfully, we have made all the decisions needed to get us back to Wheaton, IL between leaving here in June and arriving there mid July…it involved hundreds of smaller choices like where we would stop, how long we would stay (and where) and how would we get around in each place!
  3. Leaving for furlough is a lot harder this time around because the goodbyes are for longer or more final than ever before. We have friends of 13 years leaving for good (they leave before we get back) and we have other friends going on furlough before we get back, which means we won’t see them for two years total, or more.
  4. All seven of us experience different symptoms of transition. Noticing how each person handles the grief and stress is a necessary part of parenthood and marriage because it helps us have grace for each one.

Being thankful/grateful for the good things we have had as a part of missionary life has been a source of comfort to me in recent weeks. A friend in our small group led us all in a night of “Stones of Remembrance” where we watched a slideshow of the last 10 years together and then talked about the ways that God had answered prayers for us. These friends, and others, here, have truly walked through some dark valleys with us and have celebrated joys as well. So, in honor of my friend Kelly, who started this whole topic for me, here are a few stones of remembrance for our family that I want to publically thank God for: (this is by no means a comprehensive list but it gives the general idea…)

  •  The births of our five children, including the safe delivery of our high risk twins.
  • Jenny Beth’s heart defect healed the year after we returned. (I took her to Australia twice, the second time we were told she had no hole in her heart anymore!)
  • On several occasions where either us or our kids were in physical danger, God protected us.
  • Provision of all of our physical needs during our entire career as missionaries. We have had some (unexpected) gifts come in when we had medical trips to Australia.
  • A purposeful job, where we get to see people hearing and reading God’s Word in their own language for the first time.
  • “Fun nights” with our small group, where we have literally laughed all evening.
  • Opportunities to host short term personnel and interns in our project. Each one has left a stone of remembrance with us.
  • Close friends, who have journeyed with us through hard times.
  • Community: I love being able to walk to my close friends’ houses in under 5 minutes! I love having the possibility available to me.
  • Supportive family and friends who have prayed for us.
  • A market where I can buy fresh fruit and vegetables three times a week. I know I am going to miss this!
  • Our PNG friends and colleagues, especially Mama Hana who has been a part of our family since 2002.
  • The wonderful school that our kids go to. It is very common for me to bump into one of my kids’ teachers, who will tell me some little tidbit about that child and I am reminded that we are so blessed by the educators here.
  • The other support workers here–too many to list–who have also been called to serve Bible translation, providing technical, medical, financial, transportation and food services. We couldn’t do our job without them!
  • Teammates. Usually you get who you get and you make the best of it, right? God placed some really gifted (fun) and great friends in our team. Some of them work remotely and some we see often.
  • And finally, I’m grateful for the pace of life here. Sometimes I complain about the lack of opportunities to eat out or have ‘date nights’ with my husband. But I know I will miss the minimalistic life we have here.

It’s my goal to have an attitude of contentment wherever I am. Some days I am able to live that way and other days I sink into self pity pretty quickly. I’m anticipating seeing friends and family who we haven’t seen in four years. I can’t wait for my kids to know their grandparents and also to create some memories with family and friends.

I know from previous furloughs that there will be some reverse culture shock and that there is no way to avoid it, just to walk through it while hopefully not taking myself too seriously. It means being unbalanced and a little crazy at times and giving freedom to my kids to do the same.

Because we’re not shooting for perfection here: just reality.

And sometimes a little bit of sanity.

 

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May 12, 2014

Circles of tyranny and margin

by bzephyr

We’re coming to the end of four years this term in Papua New Guinea, and we’ve come to realize that we’re seriously burned out. We’ve been constantly reliving the tyrannical cycle of idealistic planning and too little margin. So after 17 years of marriage (our anniversary is this week), we’re finally making a serious attempt to get healthy and unlearn the habits of the past. It’s not easy, and it will probably be a long road, but I’m learning to build margin, rest, and re-creation into my weekly routine.

So I started contributing pictures today to a local photography club. This week’s theme is “Circles.” How appropriate at this time when I’m leaving the old cycles behind and learning a new routine. I’m deeply thankful for good friends, brothers and sisters in the family of God, who are encouraging us in our journey. In these weeks I sense that I’m coming closer to what I discerned several years ago was God’s purpose for me: to enjoy life abundantly, and to share that life with others.

For the rest of this post, I want to share with you the colors, lines, and patterns that I enjoyed today as I paused to explore the world around me at our home in PNG and in our overgrown garden.

We have a collection of flat, circular PNG baskets, and I love the ones that use three colors with stark contrast, so my first subject was our biggest one of these, the only one with concentric circles…

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Then I turned to the garden, and this decaying banana stalk stump was one of the few things that wasn’t blowing around in the wind, so it’s the image I ended up submitting…

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My favorite subject of the afternoon, however, was the curled choko tendrils that are hanging all over the banana stalks on our hillside garden. I’ll have to come back to these on a calmer day and get them more in focus…

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And here’s a few more before their prime. I had to scramble and maneuver on the steep side of our hill and nearly twisted my injured knee before I sat down amidst the spiders to get where I could photograph these…

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While looking for circles, I couldn’t resist capturing these beauties…

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But I kept looking for circles…

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These choko tendrils kept intriguing me with their loops of circles, but my wife insisted that these are  spirals and not circles, so I didn’t submit this picture to the club for the “Circles” theme. But I decided to submit it a little late for last week’s “After” theme…

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These banana stumps have new circles shooting up from the old…

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Along the way, I found some other interesting lines, and if you look closely or use your imagination, you may see some circles…

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May 5, 2014

A Missionary’s Lament

by mendibpng

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This is a bit of a different post. I began writing this as a gift to some close friends who are leaving next year, before I return from furlough. Our missionary career has been rich with friends, and for that I am grateful, but it makes the leaving and goodbyes all the more difficult. No one in our family is exempt from this kind of grief. But it’s part of the whole package of missionary life. And so, I dedicate this poem to you, my friends.

When you leave, I’ll grieve a death,
Saying goodbye to possibilities
Of seeing you whenever I like.
I carry conversations
And confidences shared in secret,
When you and I walked
Through difficult times together.

The things we laughed about
No one else would understand.
My inner pockets are full of small treasures,
Each representing some sorrow or joy.
Now they are all just memories
With varied surface and tone.

The places we met will now be
Sacred monuments to me.
I’ll search them for pieces of you
Whenever I walk by.
I know that our relationship will change,
But you are forged in me deep.
I haven’t left yet.
Neither have you.
But the grieving has already begun.

You face the great river of great unknowns
And though you haven’t crossed over it yet,
The grieving has lately begun.
Your family will be uprooted.
You will leave your home of memories
Where your children grew and played
And learned so many new things.
Yet you bravely chose to follow the Spirit,
Who’s leading you to the next place.

I grieve that I won’t be there
To walk through the next journey with you.
All I can offer is my loyalty
Despite the long distance
And the hope that we’ll meet once again.
So before we both leave here,
We’ll have more cups of coffee
And we’ll create more small treasures
To put in our pockets
To remember each other by.

-by mendib & bzephyr

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