Archive for ‘loving others’

September 6, 2016

Vulnerability and Telling the Truth

by mendibpng

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I used to have a hard time telling the truth, especially if it had the potential to cause someone to be unhappy with me.  I couldn’t reconcile the command to “speak the truth” with the “in love” part. So often in Christian circles the “love” part is emphasized but we don’t call each other out because we want to avoid shame to the other person or to ourselves.  I have also seen many people hurt by immovable idealists.  What I mean is people who think they are telling the truth but really are dogmatic in their own beliefs and unwilling to hear other points of view. The tension of living cross culturally is that you are always going to run into someone who makes different choices. It’s the lack of grace that makes people feel like they’ve been thrown into the gutter. I’ve been thrown into the gutter and I know I’ve been guilty of throwing others in. That’s the hard thing about being human…we will hurt each other. But if we can’t talk about it, there’s no way to move forward.

I began boundaries training with my friend Kay many years ago, and it started with me approaching strangers politely asking for more cream in my coffee, or asking for something in the store that wasn’t on the shelf. This progressed to me saying that I had to think about an invitation or request before saying “yes” or “no” to them.  It meant listening to the Holy Spirit (and to my heart instead of denying my thoughts and feelings as I was conditioned to do) and facing my paralyzing fear of disappointing people. I had to keep asking myself “what if I say ‘no’ to …….?” what could happen? (For example: she could get mad. I might lose a friend. I won’t die. I might be able to say ‘no’ more easily next time.) And “am I responsible for ………’s response?” (nope!) I had to remind myself that I have value (and so does the other person) and to say “yes” when I really mean “no” is a way of devaluing myself (or my family). Often I find that the fallout extends to my husband and kids as well as myself.

What I learned was that I needed to accept the consequences of telling the truth and practice it, even if it meant that it cost me something. No longer would I be angry at someone for asking me for a favor. Because it was my responsibility to respond appropriately. I can’t say the gut wrenching feelings ended with me learning to speak truthfully/honestly, but I think they have subsided some as I’ve put what Kay taught me into practice.

Telling the truth means that there will be personal consequences. Here’s where the vulnerability comes in. It’s a risk to tell the truth. Someone won’t like what I said. We might have completely different ideas of what is “respectful” behavior or even what is normal. Or, sometimes I get it wrong by the story I told myself about what happened. Sometimes I confront on my own strength without seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Sometimes the thing I said gets blown out of proportion and the thing I was hoping to convey gets lost in the conflict. Another result is that I’ve said my peace and there is no response or worse, a hostile one. At that point, I can choose to stop engaging with the crazy. I usually conclude in the end that I’m glad I said something because it’s worth it not to allow myself to be victimized. My previous efforts to be ‘nice’ damaged me because I lived in a constant state of fear of making people unhappy. In his book, ‘When Panic Attacks’, David Burns writes, “If you show me a hundred people who are anxious, I’ll show you a hundred of the nicest people you ever met!”

One of my friends tells the truth unapologetically. She has no problem approaching others to find out what really happened, and I think she’s really good at diffusing a situation that could get ugly. The reason I find safety in our friendship (and others like it) is that I know she’s going to tell me the truth every time. We don’t have to agree on everything but we both know each other’s hearts so we can assume good intentions right from the start.

It took time to build up our friendship and trust each other. She would never put me above her family or relationship with her husband and nor would she expect me to do that for her. We both have other close friends and freely expect each other to spend time with them. When I’m with her, it’s common for her to share with me what she’s studying in the Scriptures. Her desire to grow spiritually is infectious.  Also, she makes me laugh. I don’t have time for emotional games or drama in friendships, because I am stretched with all that I’m called to do here (wife, mother, teammate, etc.) I have several friendships here like this, where there are no ‘shoulds’ or guilt trips and for that I’m really thankful!

Living in community means more opportunities for truth telling and for loving confrontation.

 But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right at the center of God’s love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ. This is the unending  life, the real life! ( The Message, Jude 20-21)

February 25, 2014

Lean on me…

by mendibpng

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The other day, my closest Papua New Guinean friend presented me with this bilum: a string bag traditionally used to carry food, babies and other cargo. Bilums are given in bride price exchanges, when new babies come, or to honor a visitor. They are highly valuable, often the most expensive item being sold at our local market. This isn’t just any bag: it represents a depth of friendship between my friend and me. She took pains to find colors I like, which I know is her way of acknowledging/caring about my value for beautifully made things.

When bilums are made, it’s often a group effort. One mama will work on it for a bit, then someone else will take a turn, and so on. It can take weeks, even months to finish one depending on the size of the bag and intricate weave of the design. This bilum is different from ones I have seen before; in this case, my friend learned a new pattern, which makes it even more special to me.

I have been wanting to write about this cultural gift because every time I see my new bilum, I think about the community we have. Each layer of woven thread represents the people in our lives who support us. A team all around the world prays for us and supports us from afar. We have colleagues here on the ground who provide practical services in order for us to do our job (like teachers, pilots, administrators, etc.). There’s also our small group, teammates and close friends who support us emotionally as well. On top of that, godly Papua New Guineans hold us up in prayer and give us valuable cultural advice. If I were going to take this metaphor even further, I would say that Ben’s thread weaves itself in and out of all of these relationships (with me) since every part of our lives is so closely connected on our team, in our family and in our relationships.

I’m not going to lie and say that all the relationships we have are easy. In fact, it’s rarely the case that we would go through a week without some kind of relational/cultural stress. It makes sense that this is the case, as we interact with people for every aspect of our work and life. On top of that, we battle spiritual forces daily since our primary task is to see God’s word translated and used in the Aitape West region of Papua New Guinea…I see often the attacks striking straight at our relationships. However, the act of learning how to love people in community has really caused us to dig deep into God’s unending well of wisdom. I can think of so many instances (even one from yesterday!) where we are desperate to do the right thing but have no idea how it will be perceived culturally….all of our human wisdom and studies are not enough to shed light on the situation. I think I can safely say that Ben and I as a team aren’t the same people we were when we arrived here twelve years ago, bright eyed and full of expectations and hope for our ministry together. We’re definitely more realistic (I hope not too cynical!) but more aware of our need for God’s presence in our lives in every small and big moment. This draws me back to my original thoughts on community: as we walk through the ‘valley of the shadow of death’ (Psalm 23) with our loved ones, they are also doing the same for us, and that is a deep, rich place to be. This journey we are on (I love the ‘journey’ imagery!) is all about what we can accomplish together.

I will end with a quote from my favorite spiritual writer:

Community is like a large mosaic. Each little piece seems so insignificant. One piece is bright red, another cold blue or dull green, another warm purple, another sharp yellow, another shining gold. Some look precious, others ordinary. Some look valuable, others worthless. Some look gaudy, others delicate. As individual stones, we can do little with them except compare them and judge their beauty and value. When, however, all these stones are brought together in one big mosaic portraying the face of Christ, who would ever question the importance of any one of them? If one of them, even the least spectacular one, is missing, the face is incomplete. Together in one mosaic, each little stone is indispensable and makes a unique contribution to the glory of God. That’s community, a fellowship of little people who together make God visible in the world. (“The Only Necessary Thing,” by Henri Nouwen, p. 124)

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February 16, 2014

A world where norm will no more be

by bzephyr

Robertson Norman
The lines below were penned after I received the news a bit more than a week ago that my great uncle Norm had left this earth after 88 years and gone to be with Jesus. He and my dear Aunt Doris had recently celebrated 65 years of marriage. At nearly 6’6″ Uncle Norm was the biggest man I had ever seen when I first met him as a small boy. Even more than his sheer size, the stories my father told of him pioneering in the Pacific Northwest made him larger than life to me. With his big “Cat” bulldozer and his crew of men and logging trucks, he would contract work from the forest service, and the adventures that he had as they pioneered new roads and slipped down rugged mountain slopes are the stuff that hero tales are made of.

Yet more than all that, Uncle Norm represents to me the strength of character and firm faith of one who was confident that he served the King and Creator of the majestic world surrounding him. And he also served his family, community, and fellow man with the same kindness of Another who had stooped so low to care for a world in need to lead them to a higher place and a better Home. My family and I have benefited from Uncle Norm and Aunt Doris’s daily prayers on our behalf. I wish that I’d have had the chance to live closer to him and experience life with my Uncle Norm more intimately. I know that Norm provided a certain exceptional quality of life that is joy and peace and strength to those who lived within the shade of his shelter, anything but the norm in this present world with dark valleys and with devils filled. But Uncle Norm and I share in the confident hope of an abundant adventure of the new and glorious creation of our Savior, whose life and light will have no end for those who trust in him.

A world where norm will no more be

…a giant tree’s been felled this morn
this norm, i hardly knew
and though half a world away i too am shaken
and long that i could go
home,

where my dad grew roots
with other boughs of family line,
had nearly split apart,
yet for this sapling and my seed
the Wind has carried far
and we know not our mountain land
that beckons in my blood.
it’s kin is dear to them who are so very close to me
but i mourn the loss i can not now find,
this giant of a man.

…a servant of creation’s King
this norm, i hardly knew
is summoned forth to hear “well done”
while i, in service yet, remain in this world
history,

where relations whom i wish i’d known
impressed their hands like works of art for all to see
deep in the planet’s soil
engineered behind the scenes
not only earth’s terrains,
fine landscapes brushed on hearts and souls
in a little place that calls to me,
a dale, with those to whom i’d flee,
a town where faithful home was made,
a world where norm will no more be.

…a big ol’ rig has slipped down new road
this norm, i hardly knew
and too, though in another world, my view is cleared
to use whatever Master’s “cat” might cut new bush
highway,

where humps and roadblocks bar the way
and trail’s end is yet uncharted
by brothers, sisters too, in fellowship,
heirs who share our Pioneer’s faith
on paths to home or distant shores,
blazed with blood and sweat and prayer,
roads revealing old and New, tracks to reunite.
earthly routes both smooth and worn, dirt and stone,
will not endure like narrow Way that we must seek,
converging on that golden Street.

such norm of life that some have known
through highways, history and house
has come and gone, though we’re not surely left alone.
a taller Tree has toppled death and new creation grows,
uniting every clan on earth to serve their King,
alive again, and bound for our true Home…

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The verses above are a poetic duet that I wrote with some help from a fellow pilgrim of the faith after reading this other poetic duet moments after I heard the news that my Uncle Norm had waved goodbye to this earth. Thanks Hasty for your thoughtful input on stanzas four and six.
October 10, 2013

Here comes the Sun…

by mendibpng

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In the wake of my 39th birthday, I’ve decided to ask God for the impossible.

I find myself praying the words of this song,

Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me
Melt me, mold me
Fill me, Use me

Let me back up a little. If you have followed our blog, you may already know that in the last four years we have had some significant joys and struggles. We have experienced hard things, and can look back on some of them with relief (now that they are over!) but I for one am exhausted. I realized it significantly last week at the women’s retreat, when I took time to sleep instead of go to meetings or socialize.

I can tell I’m ‘dangerously tired’ when I start intentionally catching up on rest and I don’t feel better.

For a long time.

In fact, I started feeling even more tired and ended up going to bed around 9:00 most nights. I have seen this happen before…once the adrenaline depletion starts kicking in, it’s hard to be motivated to do more than just sleep and do the bare necessities of cooking and looking after my children.

I don’t want to go into all of the things that have contributed towards the ‘road to burnout’ because when I start to list them, I am tempted to dwell in them and start moving towards self pity and bitterness. (I have acknowledged them, so I don’t believe I’m living in denial–I just don’t want it all in the forefront of my mind.)

So, as I’m taking time to rest when I can, particularly in the evenings, but here are the things I am praying for my 39th year of life:

I want

  • God to reveal Himself to me in supernatural ways this year. A note here: I have begun to pray this earnestly and He is speaking to me through his Word, his Voice and through dreams.
  • to learn what it really means to fear God and not people. Instead of being swayed by what I perceive other people want or desire, I want to be in tune with God’s plan for me, even in the smallest things.
  • to mind my own business and not get aggravated by things that I shouldn’t be worried about (God has been impressing on me which things ARE my business and which things aren’t!)
  • to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide every relationship, with my kids, my husband, friends and acquaintances.
  • to give individual time to each of my five children every day.
  • to debrief with Ben once a day.
  • to live a life of gratitude for everything in my life
  • to give God my best time, not just the leftover mutterings at the end of an exhausted day. He showed me through a dream yesterday that I love (some) things more than Him.
  • to trust God that He will do good in my life. (Have you ever been in a place where you are afraid to ask God what He wants to do with you, in case He might give you something painful/unpleasant?)
  • to take time to do things I really love to do: like trying out new recipes and working on my quilt.

This, admittedly, is an impossible list, as I have said above. I am a sinner, and undoubtedly I will mess up as soon as I press ‘send’ on this blog post. And yet, with God’s Spirit working in me, the pressure is off to be perfect. His kind and gentle reminders convict and make me want to love Him more. That verse from James 1:5 comes back to me often,

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (NIV)

It’s all over Proverbs too: wisdom is there for anyone who asks for it.

I feel like someone who is sitting on a beach, with the sun coming down on her for the first time in a long time. I want to soak in the heat and warmth of the sun.

p.s. If you want to see what has been influencing this list, here’s what I’ve been reading lately:

“Surprised by the Voice of God” by Jack Deere
“When People are Big and God is Small” by Edward Welch
The Bible: specifically Romans

December 19, 2012

A Christmas kitchen that keeps on giving

by bzephyr

I’m singing a new tune this Christmas. And I’ve already given a gift that will hopefully help me and others in this family to keep on giving to the mom who gives so much in this home. But this isn’t about me, the kitchen, or my sweet Mandy. It’s really about the gift of God’s Son, Jesus, who came to rescue us from selfish pride and everything else that pulls us away from loving our Creator and from loving all the others he has put in our lives.

The challenge of loving others begins with my family. If I can’t truly love the ones closest to me, those who should be the easiest to love, how will I ever humble myself and selflessly serve the others God has prepared for me to encounter?

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With seven people in our family and my wife’s inclination towards hospitality, our small kitchen has long been painfully crowded and full of chaos. There never seems to be enough counter space, and it’s always a big task just to clear the sink before we can start washing the dishes, nevermind where to put them once they’re clean. I should have taken some before pictures, but I was able to find the one above. Notice that the stove top is doubling as a counter and there’s not enough space on the real counter to even fit the entire mixing bowl that is being used.

Mandy and I have talked back and forth about building a small extension off the back of our house in order to double the size of our kitchen. But who would do it? I’d like to do it myself perhaps with the help of friends, but how many of us really know what we’re doing? Plus, that would certainly take more time than I have to spare. We could hire someone to do it, but that would certainly take more money than we have to spare. Plus, if we’re going to build an extension, it ought to extend just a little bit further so we could have a much-needed mud room at the back door. And if it extends that far, it might as well wrap around the corner as well, in order to add a separate space for various ones of us to use for doing home office tasks, homework, crafts, or getting together with friends while others are occupying the rest of the house. Whether we’re talking about the minimal addition or an extended one, such a project is just too big for us at this time. BUT WE’VE GOT TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THAT CROWDED MESSY KITCHEN!

So about six months ago, I ordered a bunch of kitchen organizing tools in order to make better use of the space we have. I splurged, but I knew these things would make the perfect Christmas gifts for Mandy. When we returned from the translation workshop in our remote village a few weeks ago, these sanity boosters were waiting for us.

The biggest priority was to assemble the two-tier dish racks. Yes, that’s ‘racks’. These are BrylaneHome racks that I got here . They don’t have the best reviews by everyone, so I’m hoping these service our kitchen better than others have experienced.

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When I was searching online, I was looking for a two-tiered dish rack that is just as wide as most single-tiered dish racks that come with double-wide space for all your dishes, cups, and whatever else you’re too lazy to dry and put away right now. But all the two-tiered racks seem to be designed as space-saving devices for small apartments. I guess most people in the market for a two-tiered dish rack are dealing with fewer than seven cooks in the kitchen. So I looked for a rack that would fit nicely side by side with another one of its kind. And this is what we got.

The main problem with the side-by-side approach is that these needed to sit atop of our stainless steel drainboard. In the picture above, you can see that the white feet of the dish racks sit nicely beyond the edge of the drainboard. I first attempted to take these ugly plastic feet off the more elegant chrome-plated dish racks. But I soon discovered that those feet are one of the main things on the rack providing any sort of cross-bracing to prevent these parallelograms from toppling sideways.  So they went back on, well, half of them anyway. On the other side, I encountered another problem. Those plastic feet would cause the drain racks to stand significantly higher on one end than the other. Also, there wasn’t enough support to keep the dish racks sturdy in the deeper middle section of the drainboard. So I had to take two days to shape and varnish a wooden support for this double two-tiered drain rack system. I thought about drilling holes and fastening it with screws, but I was concerned about the risk of rust. So we’re going with some ugly zippity ties. At least they match the ugly white feet on the opposite end.
2-IMG_1450cropOnce the high-priority dish racks were up, I got to move on to the project that promised the most fun. It was also the most expensive addition at $158.07. When I was agonizing over the price tag here, I contemplated constructing my own pot rack out of whatever materials I could get my hands on here in Papua New Guinea. I probably could have done it and made it serviceable and looking half-way decent, but I don’t know how many months or years it would have taken me to get it done. I’m glad I got this one. This piece has very sturdy construction and is well-designed to do the job right. But it’s also nice to look at. And one of our first guests to visit after this was up noticed the J.K. Adams name and said, “Wow, that place is located in Vermont just 20 minutes down the road from where I’m from. They do really good work.”

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This hanging pot rack was also the most difficult thing to install. It was not easy navigating the length of the attic to this particular spot in order to see what there is to screw into up there. Thankfully, there was solid wood for three of those hooks. And I was doubly thankful that I measured twice and drilled once for each of those three holes. Thanks Dad for that advice you gave me many times over the years. I had to install an additional 2×4 up there, however, for the fourth hook. That was fun and dirty. There’s not a lot of head room there where the roof is coming down over the window.

While we’re looking at it, the kitchen curtains were a recent addition by Mandy, sewn from a duvet cover she picked up cheap at the local second hand shop. Also notice the pots and pans arrangement. The smaller ones are purposely located on the right so I don’t bump my head when I’m washing dishes. I think I’m going to enjoy being in this kitchen much more now. This may just be the gift that keeps on giving. I already scrubbed the greasy undersides of these pots and pans. If they’re going to be on display, we can’t be showing off months of blackened bottoms.

The next task was to put up the wrought-iron semicircle pot rack for the wall. It’s no J.K. Adams, but it goes well with the other iron wall decorations that Mandy likes. Since we have the other pot rack, this one will be used more for cooking utensils. I found this item here. This was the most frustrating piece to install. The wall is thin masonite, and I didn’t have a well-stocked hardware store where I could get the proper fasteners. I originally tried using the ribbed plastic anchors that came with this product. Evidently, those are not made for masonite as it sheered the ribs right off the anchors. Some also went completely through the masonite, making a bigger hole than I had drilled. For the other fasteners I tried to drill a slightly bigger hole than recommended in the instructions, but the whole pot rack easily ripped out of the wall. Thankfully, I had just enough hollow-wall anchors to finish the job. But only after I installed the long strip of molding to make sure that the whole thing was secured to the few solid studs behind that wall. There’s also another small piece of molding coming down vertically from the ceiling to support the top.4-IMG_1413cropI didn’t have this up more than a day before Mandy added her Christmas flare to the top. She says we need to print this picture and post it on the fridge so she can remember where I’ve put everything. She knows I think of this as a work of art. Sorry Honey, but this too will get me in the kitchen more. It’s fun to put dishes away when each item is adding to the look and feel of the place.

And the next item to go up was this Amish-made wrought-iron shelf from Lancaster County, PA. I found that here and the wrought-iron S-hooks here and here. This also required additional strips of molding in order to make sure the weight was secured to the studs. And again, I’m sure this will provide extra motivation to get me washing dishes and putting things away in their perfect place.

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Here’s what they look like together with a few more Christmas touches…6-IMG_1411cropThe keen eye may note that the two bottom strips of molding are exactly half the distance apart as the two top strips of molding and two-thirds the distance of the top molding from the ceiling. This placement was also dictated by the proximity of the wrought-iron shelf to the refrigerator to the left. The freezer door can now only open part way. That’s not ideal but it’s okay for the freezer. It wouldn’t have worked if the shelf was a few inches lower and impeded the larger refrigerator door.

The next item to go up wasn’t new, but it got moved to a different location. Mandy’s affinity for this iron decor inspired the previous additions to the kitchen.

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And the next to go up was a new spice rack that I found here. So most of these spices came out of an over-crowded drawer that is nearly impossible to open and close.8-IMG_1400crop

Here they are together in the evening light…9-IMG_1484crop

The next addition was this magnetic knife holder that I found here. This was originally planned to go on the side of the fridge, but it’s designed to be installed with screws. I could have glued strong magnets within the back of this knife holder and still installed it on the fridge, but we found another place for it that we both liked, right beside the stove.10-IMG_1406crop

Mandy saw my arrangement of the knives and said, “You don’t expect me to put those back in the right place, do you!?” No, of course not. But I like this arrangement. Note the louvered windows which are found in most windows that have glass in Papua New Guinea. Easy to open. Easy to clean. And easy to replace.

The next little project was not a part of the original plan. This addition to the kitchen makeover transpired when Mandy saw all of the above and started adding her own touches. This shelf used to be full of many miscellaneous food, cooking, and medicinal items. It was ugly, crowded and a nightmare to find anything we were looking fore. The pretty dishes were hidden behind a closed cupboard. No longer.11-IMG_1464cropWhen Mandy added the plates, I quickly went and found the cup hooks that were laying about the house. We almost didn’t have enough until I remembered that several more were currently unused, still ready to function with curtain tiebacks from a previous generation. But it was time to designate them again for their originally manufactured purpose. The holes were already there, so I just had to find them and screw them in. Mandy loves getting early Christmas presents, especially if it means more holiday decor.

This set of snowman plates, bowls and mugs, we found here in PNG when we first arrived in 2002. It was a strange find on this tropical island. They were hand painted in China and headed for colder climates. Our fellow expatriates from among the Chinese and Malaysian business owners had imported them to PNG at the Papindo’s store, the place where a few things from Indonesia and beyond have made it to the markets in Papua.

The next picture here shows some of the things that used to be on that shelf above. Now they are hidden in a recycled baby changing table basket.

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And we don’t have to look at the clutter all the time. The basket sits on the next shelf up next to an anniversary gift from a few years back: a piece of Madang pottery decorated with the plumage of two birds of paradise. I guess this shelf now represents the marriage of  Americana with Papuan design.13-IMG_1477crop

Here’s the larger context. We’ve got the stainless steel cubby, the vinegar cubby, and the yellow-label cubby. And in the cubby to the left is some more Madang pottery, our gecko mugs. We have fewer and fewer of these pieces as the frequent earthquakes knock them off our shelves.14-IMG_1472cropThe hanging basket below was the most difficult to find a place for. I purchased it here. It’s not an object of beauty where it is. In fact, it hides the arrangement above. But it is practical, and it helps keep a few more things off the counter.15-IMG_1479crop

At the bottom of the picture above, you can barely see the other spice rack I constructed for the kitchen a few months ago. There’s a lot of spices in this kitchen, and now most of them are easily accessible.

The hanging basket required another strip of molding on the ceiling, but there was not a single piece of solid wood behind the thin ceiling material in this location. So I had to use a few more hollow-wall fasteners to secure the molding to the ceiling, and I spaced them both fairly close to the point where the hook for the hanging basket screws in. The reviews on this hanging basket say that it will easily break if we hang too much heavy produce in there. So I’m sure the basket will break before the ceiling gives out.16-IMG_1459crop

So that’s about all. There were a few more projects done that day, but they had more to do with Christmas decorations than the kitchen, so I’ll save those for another post. So now that you’ve seen all the individual projects, here’s a few pictures of the larger context in our new studio kitchen.17-IMG_1417smartfix

Okay, in the picture above, I see an idea for my next project. We still don’t have a good place to put all of our pot lids. I’ve seen an idea recently where they can stand up vertically in a rack. We may give that idea a try.18-IMG_1401crop

In the picture above, you can see three kitchen appliances sitting on the small table that are lifesavers for us here in PNG. Mandy cooks most everything from scratch, so the mixer gets run through its paces quite often. That includes a lot of bread and pizza dough. We’ve been experimenting more recently with various whole wheat and multigrain recipes. To the left is our water filter. We catch most of our water from rain off the roof that we collect in two large water tanks. Anything we drink we run through this four-candle ceramic filter. Also on the table is our rice cooker. Mandy grew up in Indonesia and Malaysia. So we eat a lot of rice dishes. Our kids think we’re half Asian. We eat well every day, and we feel loved.19-IMG_1438cropThat’s two happy cooks there.

And here’s another. Where’s Waldo Ellie?

21-IMG_1444cropIt’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Here you can see our fireplace. Even though we’re living on a tropical island not too far from the equator, when we’re here in Ukarumpa, it can get quite cold at night since we’re situated about a mile high. The fireplace also has water pipes that run through it so it can function as our backup hot water supply if there’s not enough sun in the day to heat up the solar water heater on the roof.20-IMG_1443expandedhallwayThe small table with the kitchen appliances used to come out lengthwise farther into the room. It only left enough space for one person to enter the kitchen. Since we’ve turned it sideways, we sometimes use the kitchen as a buffet as there is now enough room for people to enter and exit the kitchen side by side. Actually, that’s a good improvement for every minute of the day. There usually seems to be at least three people in the kitchen, if not six or seven. Some of those are there with more legitimate purposes than others.

The baby gate is no longer effective. At three years old now, Jacob learned how to open it last week, and then we caught him teaching his twin sister, Jenny Beth. Now it’s mainly a reminder of where we want them to be. But if they’re talented enough to open this baby gate, maybe they’re also ready to start doing more cleaning up than making messes. After all, whenever I enter this new Christmas kitchen, I’m singing a tune about it being a gift that will help me keep on giving. If smaller versions of myself want to enter this kitchen too, maybe it’s time for them to join the chorus and fill the air with songs of helpfulness and good cheer.IMG_1428expandedwindowframeAutosmartfix-historogramequalized

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