Archive for November, 2014

November 19, 2014

This God

by mendibpng

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Since coming home from PNG, I’ve had a chance to eat things that we haven’t had in four years. One of them is this salad: mixed greens, toasted almonds and Craisins. It makes me think about the Banqueting Table referred to in Psalm 23. Eating at a banqueting table is a great picture of how I feel when God speaks.

I have been hesitant to write about this subject because it is so personal and touches on the painful parts of my history. Growing up in boarding school, I became frustrated by any kind of legalistic thinking and even as a six year old cried out to God (usually at night) when I missed my family who lived on the other side of our island, although I quickly learned to hide my emotions. As I grew older, I began listening for God’s voice and heard it from time to time. It wasn’t until I became an adult when I learned of Brother Lawrence, who talked of ‘Practicing the Presence of God,’ even during mundane tasks, like washing the kitchen floor. I began stopping to Practice the Hours and continued to seek God in the small and big things of my life, and noticed how He would show up. It was obvious when I didn’t include Him because that’s when my selfish/foolish thoughts or self pity would come to the surface. As a result, He gave me wisdom (obviously from Him) in difficult situations and I saw Him in a whole new light. He even healed some of my most painful memories, which had been buried deep but leaked into my relationships and daily living. I used to be afraid to think about Heaven, because it meant leaving the known for the unknown. But now, I’ve had a glimpse of it and of Jesus Himself, and I can’t wait to get there.

So today, I’m thankful for a God who speaks. Not just in the HUGE difficult things of life, but the smaller things. Yesterday I started my day weary and with a headache…thinking about all the things I had left on my plate, including an endless pile of laundry in my basement. Here is what He said to me

I know what you are thinking and I can handle it. Remember to keep Me in the forefront. I want you to trust Me with all the little and big things in your life today. You can do what you need to do, but you have to take time to rest. Your body is beaten down right now.

So today I’m thankful for my God, who encourages me to take care of myself (even when I normally would keep pushing on with my daily tasks.) He challenges me to tell the truth and to keep Him in the forefront (two themes that seem to be repeated again and again.) What if I looked to him every day for direction about what I needed to do that day? What if I stopped planning everything myself? What would my life look like then? What would organized church and missions look like if everybody sought God’s voice for their goals and purpose?

A side note here: I have seen people use “God told me….” to elevate themselves and to abuse other people. All I can say is, this is not what I’m talking about. (If I were on the receiving end of a comment like that, I would go straight to God and ask Him.) The book “Surprised by the Voice of God,” by Jack Deere addresses this very well.

Two other books I highly recommend are:
Praying in Color,” by Sybil MacBeth
A Praying Life,” by Paul Miller

November 14, 2014

These experiences

by mendibpng

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In our village, there are often little things for my kids to get in on. On this day, a few months before we left PNG, Jacob had a chance to observe little ducklings getting their daily snack of ants that these kids had found between the wood and bark of a tree. Our outings there are limited to places we can walk to (and with the addition of twins, I wasn’t crazy about walking far with them, only to have to carry them home!) so we often stayed close to home. Sometimes there would be a community (ethnic) dance, and we loved going to those.
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Our outings here in the U.S. this year are quite different. We usually get into a car to go to the library, animal farm or to Chicago on free museum days. Because they are different experiences from what we’re used to, we’re trying to savor all of it and be thankful.  Last week we visited Kline Creek Farm, where they told us about the pioneers and how they lived. We found it fun to talk later about how similar our life in PNG was to what the early settlers experienced. Today we had a chance to meet some other home schoolers at a skating rink. One of my kids remarked on the way home, “I didn’t think it would be fun. But it was really great, can we go every week?!” I suspect we won’t make it there every week but it’s a great way to exercise and socialize in the winter months.

I’m thankful for outings in PNG and here in the U.S….and am looking forward to what’s ahead: spending time with my aunt, uncle and cousins for Thanksgiving, visiting friends, and enjoying Christmas lights and holiday activities. While we were away in PNG, I pictured what it would be like to come back and share these experiences with our kids.  That anticipation makes it even more fun when we actually get to do them!

November 12, 2014

This Guy!

by mendibpng

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All that food you see in the picture is what we buy for one stay in Arop village. Once we get to the village, we have to put everything into rat/ant proof containers. On many occasions, Ben has helped me with this overwhelming task, and has been known to wash each of our unrefrigerated eggs (if one cracks enroute to the village, it can spoil all the others.) One of our teammates called him “indefatigable” a while back, and I would echo that…he is great at solving *impossible* problems and will take time to finish a task well, two areas where I am extremely weak. Isn’t it humorous how God puts opposites together? (humorous, infuriating at times?)

On top of that, he isn’t afraid to admit when we struggle, and is willing to do whatever he can to get to a place where we are thriving. We are by far less than perfect. But the fact that he’s trying to do whatever he can, seeking God, gives me hope. Also the fact that we can admit we aren’t perfect gives me hope! If you are around long enough, you’ll see us for who we really are–sinners who fail and ask forgiveness on a frequent basis. Having now lived most of our married life as expats/strangers means that we need extra grace to handle the cumulative stress and overseas living together. So, today I’m thankful for him.

November 12, 2014

This Country and Those Who Protect it…

by mendibpng

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Since I have lived overseas for most of my life, I am constantly reminded of how much freedom we as Americans have.  We are rich in freedom here.

My kids and I are studying American History. It has really impacted me how people came to our country seeking religious freedoms and opportunities for a better life. Sadly some were brought here against their will. I want my kids to learn about and remember are those who fought for the freedoms listed in our constitution: abolitionists, members of the military, women, politicians and so many others!

I am well aware that there are ‘issues’ and ‘problems’ here (it’s often one of the first things people tell missionaries as they come off the field)…but today I choose to thank God for the freedom that our people (especially those who serve in the military!) have fought so hard to hold onto.  As a woman in this country, I have the freedom alongside everyone else to things like voting, freedom of speech and so many more other things that other people in the world don’t have.

When we were at the McCormick building last week, we read aloud several of the quotes up on the wall. This one by Voltaire stuck in my mind so I thought I’d end with it here:

I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.

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November 10, 2014

These Five Kids

by mendibpng

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Starting off, I am thankful for my five kids. Being a mom is a job where I feel squeezed in every direction but it’s also one that also brings me the most joy. These kids have made me laugh, cry, and lean on God in ways that I never could have predicted back in 1997 when Ben and I married. I had to learn boundaries because of them. I had to learn self care so that I could care for them well. I also learned that I’m not enough and I’m often too much for them. That makes me want God intimately in my life, for every part of every day, whether I’m wiping a little one’s bottom or discussing a theological concept with a big kid.

I’m constantly learning new things (having teenagers!) and relearning things (since now our twins are preschool age) and sometimes my mind feels overloaded with input. But this year, taking time to create margin and be intentional about our family has already given us a great deal of joy, along with the hard times of transitioning to life here. I’m thankful for furlough, and for the people and places we get to experience together with our kids.

Life is messy. But full.

 

 

November 7, 2014

You know you are in reverse culture shock when….

by mendibpng

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  • your mad skills at things like dehydrating food, booking plane tickets, and malaria prevention are no longer needed. All of a sudden you need a whole new skill set (and believe me, mine were rusty!)
  • a simple task like mailing a package is daunting (Me, “Where is the PO? Where do I park? Oh, I have to take a stub to be next in line? What if she calls the number and I don’t hear her?”)
  • the GPS tells you to turn right, you do, and realize you are going the wrong way on a ONE WAY street when someone honks loudly at you…
  • you forget how cold it is outside and walk out with a t-shirt and flip flops.
  • you feel incredibly grateful when someone in a grocery store talks to you kindly because it happens so rarely.
  • you forget names, drop things, spill drinks and generally are hyper-alert because of all the things going on in your head all at once.
  • you program your phone number into your cell phone because your mind still blanks even after several months.
  • you find yourself reading price labels out loud at the grocery store because there are so many options and you are overwhelmed.
  • you (or your spouse) have been looking forward to doing something culturally American but your children aren’t really keen on the activity…do you go ahead with it and hope they come around, or scrap it??
  • it surprises you that cars stop for you to cross the street, so you run a little.
  • you are still converting things to the currency where you live overseas whenever you go out shopping.
  • some habits stick with you like, you lock your door during the day and check it multiple times at night to make sure it’s locked.
  • you successfully order pizza using your coupon and (hopefully) didn’t sound like a crazy person.
  • you speak English but you feel like you are speaking a different language than everyone else. (My language now includes cultural idioms from my British and Australian colleagues and also from PNG.) We coached the children, “don’t say where is the toilet?” We say, “where is the restroom?” here.

Some of the things listed above made me laugh, and some to be honest made me cry. In reality, any small thing can trigger great anxiety or emotion because I am still trying to adjust. This week while talking to a friend, I described what I’m experiencing as similar to chronic illness (in that it’s invisible). A friend of mine struggles with a chronic illness, and you would never know it unless you knew her well. She suffers daily (hourly!) but bravely lives with a valor that I’ve never seen in another human being. Anyway, I am sure I do not carry myself as well as she does, but to look at me, it is probably not evident to most people that I am struggling under the surface. Cumulative stress from living overseas has taken its toll on our marriage and family (that is a good reason to have a furlough, right?) And yet, I have five kids to care for daily, so I try not to ‘wear’ these things on my sleeve every day. Plus when my kids are having a hard time with reverse-culture shock, it is really hard for them to see their mom falling apart.

On top of that, there’s a delicate balance between being totally honest with people (who may find it shocking to know the truth, or who really don’t want to know!) or veering into self pity (even if I’m not feeling self pity, I don’t want to be perceived as such!) Anyway, my closest friends are gracious to accept me for who I am, do not judge or try to ‘fix’ me. They laugh with me over funny things that happen and cry with me when things get rough.

After five months of being here, I’m starting to feel like I’m coming out of the fog, and even have had some experiences where I haven’t felt completely out of it (yay!) I’m really thankful for the time we have here, and for the chance to adjust in our own time frame. We are also enjoying so many things about being home, that it is definitely worth the effort of readjusting.

November 5, 2014

Noah’s furlough blog

by mendibpng

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I am an MK (missionary kid) meaning my parents are missionaries in Papua New Guinea or PNG for short. PNG is an island in the Pacific Ocean just above Australia. It is divided in half. Half of the island is PNG and the other half is Indonesia. There is over 800 languages so there is a main trade language called, Pidgin or Tok Pisin. It is derived from tons of different languages, like English. Since it is an island, the coasts are hot and humid. The highlands are temperate and about 80 degrees year round. The north coast is about 2 degrees south of the equator and there is only two seasons; rainy and dry. There are two large missionary bases that I know of in PNG. New Tribes in the North East and Ukarumpa in the Eastern Highlands. Ukarumpa is one of my home towns. Its where I grew up, but I was born in the USA. My home town in America is Wheaton, Illinois.

I’m in America. My home town here is new and exciting. The leaves are in the middle of turning colors and dropping to the ground. Also everything is spelled different. (PNG is a common wealth country.) There are paved roads, contrary to the dirt and gravel rounds in PNG. Fast food restaurants are everywhere. Half of them we couldn’t eat at for a while, we usually eat tons of vegetables and a little meat. Mc Donald’s is mostly processed meat and grease. Not to say it doesn’t taste good but we weren’t used to so much meat and oil. The meat grown in PNG is usually expensive or tough and chewy: chicken and crocodile. There is a crocodile farm that mianly uses the crocodiles for  the skins, and so they sell the meat cheaply. It tastes like chicken but has a different texture. There is a small store in Ukarumpa that gives us all that we need. But the prices are going up all the imported things like beef, lunch meat, toys…ect. Now we can buy meat for sometimes 3 times less here in the US.

Walking on cross walks and being careful opening car doors are lessons I had to learn the hard way. It was so embarrassing, we were visiting our cousins when I opened the car door into another car next to use and scratched it. Lesson learned. The other time wasn’t so bad, because all I got was an angry car honk and a little bit of a talking to by not just one but three of my family members. (Older brother, younger brother and mom.)

Being a furloughing MK  is nice at times. I get to finish school by lunch most days. I get to see my grandparents and eat fast food. I get to eat meat which we can only get occasionally in Papua New Guinea.  I am privileged enough to get a tablet. It brings “friends.” I vaguely know a few people in online games. I started reading the ‘Lord of the Rings.’ Books rarely take me more than 3 days but it has taken me a couple of weeks and I’m rarely half way through. In my defense it combined all three of the books so if you split it up, I finished the first book, and I’m about 2 thirds of the way through. We visited our other grandparents in Florida and we went to Aquatica. We visited my parents friends in our car trip in Colorado. They went camping with us and taught us (or retaught us) how to fish. We later visited friends who went to a training course with us in PNG and their oldest, a little 6 year old’s first words to me were “do you like legos? I have The Lego Movie and lots of legos.” Here in Illinois we have gone to a wildlife preserve called the Arboretum where there are tons of trees, and we have taken tons of pictures. I can’t put any on here because I don’t have them on this device but I took one thinking that one tree was photo bombing the other tree. Ha ha haa. Any way we have visited a couple friends and all of our grandparents. We have had a ton of fun. Tomorrow we are visiting a Planetarium so I hope to have even more fun!!! This is how our year back in the States has gone.

Some tough things about home schooling include: few friends. I only see my youth group and neighbors. In Ukarumpa we are a small comunity of Christian belivers. We are a very tight community and everyone knows each other. I don’t get to do much and I often feel bored here. I am losing the calluses on my feet. I have to wear shoes everywhere. (I know it sounds silly but I hate shoes.) I don’t have a real math teacher so if I have problems I can’t ask the teacher for help. My mom is not really a math teacher and finds math hard.  I miss my friends and I try to write to them but I often forget, and I really just sit around all day playing on my tablet or reading or watching a movie all day. It is so cold so I can’t really do anything. My life is taking sharp turns. First I’m in a theme park exhausted and the next I’m sitting in my house waiting for something to happen. I don’t want to sound like a Puddle Glum but I am often bored out of my mind. These are some of the pros and con’s of being me in the States. I hope you have enjoyed my story about this year.

November 2, 2014

Furlough Fall Fun!

by mendibpng

In PNG around this time of year, we decorate with fake leaves, pumpkins and gourds. Sometimes we make some kind of fall craft…usually something simple like cutting out leaves and putting what we’re thankful for on them. It makes coming home to REAL Fall extremely meaningful for us. Here are a few pictures from the last couple of weeks. I wish I could express the deep meaning there is behind being able to do things like this after not being able to for 4 years! Awesome. Refreshing. Breathtaking. Fun. Some things I didn’t get pictures of because we were just living in the moment: like when we stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts one afternoon and drove around to find the prettiest trees in Wheaton.

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We rode into Glen Ellyn last week because the weather was gorgeous. I think it was 74 degrees out!
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The kids have been to the arboretum several times with Grandma and Grandpa. Grandpa has been giving Noah and Ellie photography lessons there!
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Then…picking out pumpkins!
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and….success!
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JB& Grandpa
“Grandpa, I want him to have a tongue” —best quote by Jenny Beth.
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And last night, we visited the Paper Bag Man who made funny jokes and gave the kids treats before they went trick or treating in Ben’s old neighborhood.
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We ended the night by visiting the dancing lady (Aka Grandma!) and some of her friends. It was very nice to be inside after shivering outside earlier!

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