Advent

When we spend the Advent season in the village, we like to make an Advent calendar. We try to do activities and traditions that create special memories for the boys. We don’t have the same kind of Christmas programs at church and school, we don’t have the same kind of Christmas parties, we don’t have snow, we don’t have Christmas carols playing in the stores, and we don’t have stores.

But what we do have is time…time to spin small things into magic.
And in absence of all the other the small things really are magical.

Advent Activity: Reading Christmas and Winter themed books by candlelight.

Advent Activity: Watching Christmas movies, drinking spiced tea, and eating popcorn. Ezra got in on the fun, but standing and feeding himself popcorn (we were all quite amazed).

Advent Activity: Telling the nativity story with Shadow puppets.

Advent Activity: making Star Wars themed snowflakes.

Advent Activity: making “snowballs”, and listening to Christmas music.

Other Advent activities:
Setting up the Christmas tree.
A simple scavenger hunt to find small presents.
A family game night.
Making Christmas cards.
Drinking hot chocolate.
Making Christmas crafts that were sent to us in a package.
A night to work on presents for one another.

These last few Advent cards have been empty as I’ve run low on creativity.
Some of the nights we have had to give up to uninvited guest that have shown up and wanted to spend the night with us.
But, each of these have been opportunities for the boys to be gracious, to be kind, to be welcoming, to not be frustrated.

I’m starting my list of activities for next year, any suggestions for bigger boys? Most of my ideas were just a little bit young for the nine year old.

Drought. And continuing the gratefulness.

Maybe it’s because of Thanksgiving, maybe it’s because of the Advent season, maybe it’s just time for me to be GRATEFUL. For whatever reason I’m still thinking about food + being grateful in everything.
This post has been simmering on the back burner of my mind for quite awhile now. I think it is time to finally “serve it up.”

Last year our friends went through a long drought. We were back in our home country, so when we returned the stories flowed.

For seven months it did not rain. The ground dried up and cracked. Dust clouds filled the air. The green vegetables all died. The cassava and taro food staples all but died. The clove trees died. The coconut trees shriveled up and refused to produce. Malaria mosquitos took over. The river got low. Hundreds of people got sick with malaria and typhoid. The sickest ones hiked down to the hospital to be treated. An overflow camp was set up on the banks of the river. People lay in shacks made of coconut leaves. A baby was born in the shacks, and lay attached to its placenta for several days until it’s parents could find someone to cut the cord (they couldn’t afford the $10 that the local medical worker charged).

Our friends ate ondote: a large poisonous root that has to be soaked in the river for three days before it becomes edible. Ondote makes the skin on your hands thin and painful when you work with it. But ondote is always around, even during the drought.

When we were teaching about the children of Israel in the desert, my co-teacher compared ondote with mana. She said that they are both Gods provision. Mana allowed the Israelites to survive the long and dusty wandering. Ondote is the food that allows them to survive through long and dry and dusty days.

Well that’s a big fat dose of perspective for me. I wouldn’t consider poisonous-root-ondote a blessing. It made me think: are there things in my life that are blessings or provisions, but because of my materialistic mindset I see them as hardships? Do I hold to tightly to my definition of comfort, and then get caught up in complaining when life becomes uncomfortable? Should I be grateful for the ondotes in my life?

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Thanksgiving

Our Thanksgiving was less than traditional this year. I guess that is usually the case here in the village…one year we had a Thanksgiving duck…another year two Thanksgiving chickens. But, this year was the most lacking in tradition. This year we had my pumpkin mole soup and pumpkin cake. We love my pumpkin soup, but it was strange to be fowl-less. No turkey, duck, chicken, or even turduckens in sight.

As I was mentally preparing for a small, low-key Thanksgiving, I wasn’t really wishing for turkey, cranberry sauce, or stuffing. I was wishing for someone that we could share it with. Other village Thanksgivings we have happily shared our bounty with friends. This year, though, they all couldn’t make it.

For weeks beforehand I kept thinking of the loneliness of the holiday. No friends (who know what Thanksgiving is). No extended family. No other Americans for kilometers and kilometers.

When the actual day arrived it wasn’t a bit sad. By God’s grace, the loneliness had dulled. As we created our Thanksgiving art projects, I was able to remember the many things we have to be grateful for. It helped my heart to see the boys enjoy themselves, and to throw their heart into being thankful.

Now we are in full-on Christmas mode. Bring on the Christmas music.

Welcome HOME

We’ve been in the US for three months now, and still occasionally feel the jolts of reverse culture shock. I’m finally slowing down enough to put my thoughts to paper. 

Welcome

A few weeks ago our sweet friends threw a “welcome home” picnic for us. It was fun eating meatball sandwiches, sausage soup, salads, and cake with our close group of special people.

Several times different ones came over and said something to the effect of: “I know this isn’t really home for you…but…we didn’t know what else to call this party.”

To which I said, “You know, we call everywhere that we are at ‘home.’ We call hotels ‘home’, we call friends’ houses ‘home’…it’s the best way for us to appreciate wherever we’re at. And it’s easier just to call everywhere home without having to be specific. ” 

This is true..mostly. We do really enjoy this new home. But, we still feel the jolts of realization that we aren’t really AT home here (or maybe, anywhere).

I feel like I need to tell everyone where I am going, and what I am doing. Sitting at a ladies event, I got up to go to the bathroom, and felt that I should announce to the table that I was going to go to the bathroom (I stifled the urge). When going to the store I almost head over to my neighbors’ house to tell her that I’m headed out (she’s my sister-in-law so it’s not TOO weird).

I feel weird in situations where I would be expected to use my left hand. I still juggle my purchases to my left hand so I can pay with my right hand, or accept whatever someone is giving me with my right. Try paying a toll with your right hand!

I find it strange that Americans have such nice cars, but they let them get pretty dirty. Asians will wash their cars EVERY DAY.

I go to Wal-Mart, and find it incredibly weird to see people in their bathing suits (whaa?) or sweatpants and t-shirts. I know, I know it’s not weird, it’s Wal-Mart. But in Asia you dress up to go out, anywhere. I still ask Michael before going out “are you sure if it’s okay if I wear my jeans and a t-shirt?”

I’m relieved when I can enter a room, and not have to work it. In other words, in Asia I would walk into a room full of people, and have to shake hands and greet everyone. It was good and connected me with everyone, but I would also get tired of it. Here, I like the anonymity of walking into a church service, sitting down, and doing MY thing. 

It’s tempting to get comfortable here, to adapt and adjust, and to live it up here in this US home. But, my otherness reminds me to live in such a way that says “this world is not my home.” Even if we call everywhere home, it really isn’t. 

A blog I love to read, written by my long ago friend Jen, says it best.

Bowties and suspenders

Bowties and Suspenders

Sometimes their dad goes off to work in a helicopter. When he comes back, after a few days away, the boys are so excited that they put on their fancy clothes to go meet him. This picture brought to you by Third Culture Kid moments. PS Abby and Heather, their shirts are from you, thanks!

Christmas

Christmas was:

EARLY morning opening presents by candle light.

Special treats for breakfast.

Trekking through the mud in our dress clothes to go church. Good thing for rubber boots.

Lunch with friends who do not mind if we dine shirtless.

A ramshackle Gingerbread house

Often things in our lives do not go as planned.

I have been planning to post here on this blog for quite awhile.
I have composed lots and lots of posts in my head.
Most have them have been deep thoughts, things that take my little brain a long time to wade through. I still find myself slogging through it all; I still haven’t been able to write my thoughts all the way down on paper with a good intro and a nice application at the end. Maybe I will be able to soon. It’s a good place that I’m in: thinking, feeling, and working on believing truth. But, it takes time to process.

So, what does that have to {loosely} do with our ramshackle gingerbread house?
When we bought our beautiful Gingerbread house kit at Ikea visions of spices, and family time, and beauty, and Christmas rainbows danced in my head.

Reality though is a stove top metal box oven with uneven baking temperatures, guests that stop by at the crucial baking moment, a shortage of gingerbread dough, and a rain shower. We love a good seasonal rain shower because it almost feels like being snowed in. But, the cozy rainy humidity quickly soggified our gingerbread house, and it sagged and fell apart before our eyes.

Yes, our gingerbread house will never make it onto Pinterest. Yes, things happen. Yes, life doesn’t go as I plan. I choose to believe, though, that this messy deep waters life can glorify Him. And that His name is still Love.