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Sunflower Sunday

Once a year the fields surrounding our house bust into vibrant colors of yellow, orange and green. We call it ‘Sunflower Sunday’ This magnificent display lasts for only a few days. The whole neighbourhood gets together and here’s what happens!

The Island Dress

She chased after us, waving her arms and yelling out. We didn’t see the aging woman, and kept on driving. Minutes later the phone rang, and in a run of desperate Bislama, The woman, whose name I didn’t even know other than ‘Jennifer’s mom’ told us we had to turn around and come and talk to her. In Vanuatu, we had long ago learned that there is no better time for people than right now. Eric obediently turned the truck around and drive back to the place in the road that led to the older woman’s house. Smiles wrinkled their faces and with trembling hands her and her daughter presented Eric and I with a hand woven mat and a brightly coloured island dress. I held it close to my heart as kissed them both.

‘Thank you, thank you’ she whispered into my ear.

We were both crying as I pulled the neatly folded dress to my face and breathed in the smell of the fabric. I knew this was the last time I would see her in a very long time. 

More hugs and kisses and we all waved goodbye for the last time. The first part of our adventure had come to a close, and in just a few hours we would be leaving this island home that we had grown to love so much.

When I got home, I carefully hung the island dress up and added it to the collection of dresses that had  been ever expanding since our arrival over 13 months ago.

I remembered when we had first arrived in Vanuatu, how strange everything had looked. New smells, new colours, new foods and new fashions. Amongst those was the puffy sleeved, brightly coloured island dress. It seems there was only one dress pattern on the entire island and it was the island dress. Worn by little girls and grandmas alike, the island dress was by far the most popular item to own in ones closet.

photo credit: cecile-au-vanuatu.over-blog.com

The strangely fashioned article never really grew on me, and in the beginning, I didn’t understand the significance of the garment or the proud way the woman wore it.

But now here I was with my eighth island dress and I was finally beginning to see.

I remembered when I was given my first island dress by the mom of a boy that my kids had adopted into our home on dozens of occasions. He struggled with the pain of loss and addiction, and we had tried our best to wrap our love around him give him a place in our hearts. His mom, grateful for a family that loved her son,  had lovingly made Eric and I matching island clothes for Christmas. With the traditional colors of their village- bright green and yellow, the dress was by far the most elaborate island dress that I had seen so far, with lace and frills on everything. I went into my bedroom and pulled the dress over my head, inspecting my reflection. I look oddly decorated and frumpy, but knowing how well I would fit in, and how happy it made other woman to see me dressed up, I wore it anyways.

Wearing the first island dress I had ever been given

When I came out of the bedroom, the young man took one look at me and said “Rebecca, can I tell you something? Right now you look so beautiful.’  Suddenly the strange image I was holding of myself in this dress melted away, and in it’s place was a warm feeling of love, a reflection of myself that was much more becoming than the one I normally think of myself with.

The second dress I owned came from one of the mammas of a tiny village far on the North end of the island. We had visited the village of Taka on a camping trip and fell in love with all the kids that spent long days and late nights at the beach or around the campfire with us. The grandmother of the village had told me that we were the first people to play with their kids that were not members of their own family. When the time came for us to finally leave, the mammas of the village had piled shell necklaces onto our heads and filled our truck with fresh fruits and woven mats. The village was so far away that we hadn’t visited it again for months, but when we did stop by unexpectedly, one of the mommas quickly sent her daughter to fetch a bag that was all wrapped up. She handed it to me through the truck window as we were leaving, and told me that she had been saving it for me. It was a lovely brightly colored tie dyed island dress. 

Wearing my tie dyed island dress with Zaby

The third was given to me by a barely there, wisp of a grandma, who we had met in Teaoma, a small village nearly 40 minutes away. We knew her grandchildren quite well and one time had dropped off some food for their family. She never knew if  or when we would come back. But when we did two months later, she ran out, and cried as she hugged me tightly and gave me a lovely red island dress that she had been saving for me.

Hugging the beautiful grandma who waited for 2 months to give me this dress she had made

 The fourth, fifth and sixth dresses were given to the little girls by a girl in church who whose grandma sewed island dresses and who had fallen in love with my curly haired, white faced little girls. 

The seventh dress was given to us by the wife of one of our workers, after we visited their home late one Sunday night. And the now the last island dress, was being given to us by Jennifer and her mom.

Jennifer’s life has been hard. And as her husband tried to earn money working as a migrant worker in Australia, she coped with a brand new baby, as well as two other kids and all of this in a 10ftx10ft one room house.

Jennifers baby- Annalise Talia

I never found out why her 70 year old mom lived alone, but I did know that she sold pineapples and sweet coconut bread on the side of the road to earn money. Skinny dogs by the dozens chased skinny chickens in her yard and she wondered why the eggs weren’t as abundant as last year. But however she managed, she always did it with a big smile and a warm hug.

Jennifer’s moms chickens 🙂
Jennifers two older daughters- Louise & Kasin
Annalise Talia

We would sing to Jennifer and her mom on warm Sunday afternoons. We would also fight over her beautiful baby girl, and my kids would beg me to adopt her after every visit.

Every time we left after a visit, Jennifers mom would fill up our arms with stalks of sugar cane, island pumpkins or flowers from her garden. We gave her a flashlight and umbrella once, and she wept as though we had given her the world.

Tom’s mothers and sisters

Today, as I hung up the 8th island dress, I cried. I cried because I finally realized what made those unfashionable dresses so special, and it wasn’t the pattern of their fabrics or the lace trimming. Every dress I had been given was a symbol of 💕 love. In the kindest, most humble of ways, the woman in the island gave dresses and mats as a way of saying ‘I love you’, ‘thank you’, or ‘you are special’. And now with my very own collection of island dresses I was proud every time I wore one, knowing that it was a symbol of love from women who had become friends.

This Mothers Day I will remember the strong and beautiful woman that I have loved so much. 

 

Numbers 6:24-26

24 The Lord bless thee, and keep thee:

25The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:

26 The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.

Leaving Paradise and Heading Home…

My freezing cold body sunk down into the hot water, and I sighed out all the stress of sleepless nights and long days of travel that come with flying and driving with babies.  I was now taking the first hot bath I had had in over 1 year! It felt magnificent, and after I soaked, I dried off in a fluffy white towel, as I stood on a lovely bath mat, made of woven organic cotton and dyed various colors of blue. I couldn’t believe how clean, and white and beautiful everything was. 

It was 1:52am but the entire family was still wide awake. We were wandering around in a daze looking at and touching things like we had never seen them before. None of us could sleep. I had already tried tucking myself between the crispy white sheets spread tightly across my master bedroom bed, but nothing was working. I felt out of place, in this spacious, lovely decorated, house that looked like it had come straight out of a magazine.

White walls, curtains over the windows, carpets, lamps, sparkling chandeliers, paintings, soap, a dishwasher, a fridge…I couldn’t believe they even made fridges that big! It was all so pretty, and so big, and so surprisingly unfamiliar.

We had left Vanuatu nearly 36 hours ago, and we had just arrived for our first night home in Canada. I tried so many times to fall asleep, but the silence all around me felt like a great big black blanket, that I wished I could throw off me. The familiar sights and sounds of our home in Vanuatu had kept me company for the last 13 months, and now I was missing them desperately.

Where were those noisy crickets and frogs that kept me awake at night? Where was the steady beat of the ocean surf, coming and going?  There was no village music drifting through the warm tropical air, no whirring fans blowing off the mosquitos from our feet which stuck out of our damp sheets, or drunk men laughing outside, no dogs barking at every person that walked by all through the night.

I sighed, and cried, and prayed, reminded myself that God is the Master Planner and it’s He who knows all things and eventually my exhausted body succumbed to sleep.  In the morning, I told Eric I thought we should hop back on the plane and go home. By home, I meant back to Vanuatu. He agreed immediately.  Half of the kids said no, the other half said yes, but the bank account was the real thing that stopped us from turning around.

A couple hours later, real bacon was sizzling in the pan,  filling up the house with an aroma we had only dreamed of.  My daughter caught me drinking a bottle of maple syrup which had screamed my name when I discovered it in the fridge. Before long, my house was filled to bursting with the squeals of children who my heart had ached for this last year. When coming home, we had decided to keep it a surprise from everyone, just for the fun of appearing out of nowhere. The tears and amazed squeals from cousins was totally worth all the work it had been to keep our secret!


I had long visits, in a language I understood, with my best friends and sister, and I was reminded again of the real reason that I had missed Canada so much. It wasn’t the house, or the cars, the computers. It wasn’t even the strawberries, bacon or maple syrup,  it was the people. The same thing that had stolen my heart in Vanuatu had my heart in Canada, and now I felt so unsettled, not knowing who I was or where I belonged.

I found my daughter holding back tears in the corner, and I wrapped my arms around her, and we cried together. Cried because we had left home, and cried because we had found home.

$22,000 USD is what it cost our family to fly to Vanuatu. Then we paid an additional $4500 in Visa fees to stay as long as we did. We both knew that if we were going to go back, it would take another monumental effort, a lot of hard work and a fair bit of faith. Faith was starting to come a bit easier to us nowadays, as living day to day really has a way of making you dependant on God and His goodness and wisdom, but we still struggled with it.

I sat on my best friends couch, giggling like little girls, and it felt as though we had never been separated. When she asked me why I had decided to come home, I tried to explain all the reasons that had made up this life changing decision, but my mind suddenly went blank. I honestly couldn’t remember why we had decided to come home. ‘To go to the dentist’, I lamely explained.

When I came home that day, I asked Eric to refresh my memory on all the reason why we had left paradise. He reminded me about our two daughters that had already left Vanuatu ahead of us, and about working- like that thing people do to earn money, and about my health, and about a dozen other reasons that sounded so convincing when I had booked the tickets a couple months, but that hardly seemed critical now.

I admit, I am afraid. I am afraid that I might be the same person I was when I left. I am afraid that I’ll get busy, and start caring more about things and less about people. I’m afraid that I won’t know how to minister to Gods children, because they are all around me in great big houses, with families that look so content. I am afraid that everything that happened on that tiny island will fade away, and with it all the love and adventure and memories will be gone.

 

Faith is the great healer of fear.  I feel like a little child learning something for the first time. Falling again and again, unsure of how to go forward without all the pain of repeated failures.  Faith is such a small word for such a big lesson, and I pray that God will send me an extra dose of it to navigate these next few months with my family.

‘I cry unto my God in faith and know that He will hear my cry’

After School Vistors

The smell of cinnamon buns was wafting through the house and making everyone hungry. None of the girls that were bouncing around my kitchen had ever had a cinnamon bun before, so we were excited to share them. Early this morning, when my little girls went off to school, they asked me if it was okay if they brought some friends home to play. Being the awesome mom that I am and never wanted to miss a chance to win points with my kids I enthusiastically said “you bet”!

A few hours later piles of kids poured through my front door. This was not a few after school friends! I was pretty sure they had brought the entire school home with them! The girls were giggling as they took off their blue and yellow uniforms and folded them neatly across tables and chairs. It was too hot to keep the uniforms on and most the girls had a change of clothes with them. After quickly stripping their skirts they ran down to the ocean with both my daughters in tow and splashed and swam. The radio had sent out an extra large wave warning, so the girls thought that was the perfect invitation to go and play.

Squealing, and screaming and laughing could be heard over the crash of the giant, frothy waves. I went down to watch them and make sure everyone stayed safe, but who was I kidding? These kids could swim better and further and than I ever would be able to. Swimming was like breathing, and they had been doing it since they were tiny.

I headed home and a few minutes later, the group of girls came back too. They were all shivering and cold. My girls quickly offered them a hot shower (most of which none had ever had a hot shower before) and sometime before my gas tank had been completely emptied of it’s expensive liquid, the girls all tumbled out. They wrapped themselves up in every dry towel I had and began to play basketball outside.

I was fascinated by the large group, and sat staring  out the window at them, not quite sure what to do. I had been expecting a few little girls to come home with mine and had made a little snack of cut up pineapple and watermelon for them to share but that was not going to do it!

I quickly thought up a plan, I’d do a cooking class. I told them all that today we were going to make cinnamon buns. They were delighted and threw the basketball through the hoop one last time before running inside. I tried to ignore the puddle of water all over the floor and the messy kitchen, telling myself that they wouldn’t notice either- so neither should I. I divided them into groups of 4 and  taught them how to make the tasty, sticky treat. I don’t speak Bislama very well, and they don’t speak English very well, but we did alright as I mimed and acted out exactly what steps happened next.

They stirred, and kneaded and rolled and sprinkled and cut until every pan I had was covered in cinnamon buns waiting to be cooked. Every girl there cooks on a fire in her village. None of them had stoves or ovens, so they were mesmerised by everything in the kitchen. Giggling each time I gave them an instruction or pulled out a new dish.

As the cinnamon buns cooked I told the girls it was time to clean up the messy kitchen. It had already been a disaster with dishes piled high in both sinks, before we had started and now it was even worse. Those girls only needed to be told once and they took their job very seriously. The counter was wiped about a hundred times, and each dish was washed, dried and within 20 minutes the kitchen was immaculate.

Little girls with frizzy black hair, and dark brown skin, sparkling white teeth and beautiful smiles were all being dropped off now that it was pitch black and drizzling with rain. I wondered if their parents even knew where they were today, or wondered what took them so long to come home from school, and I wonder what magic will happen in my house tomorrow!

Going to School

I must be crazy…

Their yellow and blue uniforms lay folded on the bed and I shook my head wondering what I was thinking. I have been an avid homeschooler for the last 17 years. My oldest daughter went to one semester of high school in grade 12 but other than that, not a single one of my kids had ever set foot in a traditional school building. And now here I was and in the morning both my 9 and 11 year old would be going to school for the first time.

Their smiles, and absolute amazement when they asked if they could attend the local village school and I said yes,  made everyone laugh in the family. We shopped for the matching uniforms together and filled their backpacks with pencils and paper. I’m not really sure why I said yes, but it felt like the right thing at the time.

At home in Canada there is a tremendous amount of pressure and shame if a mother enrolls her child in school and then takes them out early. The opposite is true here. Kids drop in and out of school as quickly as flies. If they can’t afford school one month they are out, and if they can the next, they are in. I’m sure it isn’t very helpful for their educational experience, but for my purposes it worked quite nicely. No upset teachers or frustrated principles. Pay $50, buy the a cute little uniform and voila they can go to school for as long or short as they want. Yes, this was going to do just nicely.

I explained to my friend over text, that I didn’t sign them up for school because homeschooling had disappointed me or because I was overwhelmed. Quite the opposite, actually. Our homeschool school house has been a diverse, exciting, and fun learning place for all my kids. I think that I signed them up because it feels like it would be a great homeschooling experience to go to a local village school.  Isn’t it funny that I view ‘real’ school as part of my homeschooling experience? I’m laughing, that’s for sure.

When they finally got out the door to school, they were scared and excited. They arrived in time for classes to start and both got settled nicely in their classes. During the class the teacher, who rules with a stick and threats of the principles office, was extra nice to the two little girls, who of course, were the only white kids in the entire school.

Emma said that lots of kids didn’t have lunches so she shared hers. This was amusing I thought because I hadn’t sent her with a lunch, I was up with a sick baby all night and so the only thing I could find to shove in their backpacks was an apple and two cookies. She shared her lunch?

Frizzy haired, brown skinned girls and boys lined up to talk with the girls. Sarah and Emma had plenty of friends to spend every minute with, and Emma who is only 9 had little boys finish the homework that she was having trouble with, so that when she returned to her desk it had all been scribbled in for her 🙂 Priceless. Their first day of school was priceless. At lunch when the girls wanted to play the local game ‘butterfly’ they had at least 20 kids line up to play with them. I don’t think making friends will be a problem for these young ones.

There was a sad spot in the day when the boys in the class were talking too much and so as a punishment the teacher told them they missed going out for lunch or recess. About an hour after lunch, Emma the poor dear, who hadn’t had breakfast or lunch yet, just couldn’t bear the hunger any longer and began sobbing at her desk. When the teacher saw her crying she asked her what was wrong and after finding out that she was hungry and wasn’t used to skipping meals sent her outside to eat. The kindergarten teacher saw her going to eat by herself and left her entire class unattended while she joined Emma for a snack, and kept her company.

Once the two older girls heard about the little girls going to school they wanted to go too. Their friend down the road told them about a school that teaches 1/2 an hour of math and then your choice of: basketball, piano, sewing, cooking, fire dancing, weaving, story telling, drama, traditional dancing, beach volleyball, and art. It cost $1 for the year. I was sold- and suddenly not just 2 of my girls, but 4 of them were starting school for the first time!

Walking home will take them an hour, but they will be with lots of other children who are walking home too. And at nighttimes when they get home from school we do the ‘real’ learning, that they would have been doing during the daytime- exploring beaches, researching turtles, and swimming with the fish- oh and taking their college prep courses online.

Back at home, during the hot, humid day, I alternated between, sitting at home holding my 2 year old who was sick and chasing after my 4 year old who told me plainly “school’s garbage, I miss my sisters.” I agreed with him. It was no fun being without my kids today.

I think I can last for a few weeks, and then I am pretty sure it will be back to normal in our fun, busy school house. But until then, I think they will have a memorable, and spectacular experience going to school on this beautiful island, and I think it was the right thing to let them all go to school this month!

One Year in Vanuatu

I can’t believe it’s already been one year. In some ways it feels like a lifetime and in other ways it seems as though we just arrived. The experiences that we’ve had have been irreplaceable. I made a video to celebrate our 1 year anniversary, on the adventure of a lifetime! If you’ve been wondering why I haven’t been blogging as regularly, it’s because I was crazy sick and had to be flown to Australia for medical help, and then because I started writing a book! Stay tuned, I’ll let you know when it’s ready to read 🙂

A Letter of Thanks….

Dear Showhome Furniture,

May I share a story with you? About a year ago we got tired of living in Alberta. We decided to take our kids for a short adventure to a small 3rd world country, located on a little island off the coast of Australia.

I was excited to escape all the snaps and texts and tweets of our modern society, and spend a little time with our family. Turns out that it was the best decision we ever made and you can read all about it here: www.heybeckyboo.com.

Our four month trip quickly turned into a one year trip as we experienced paradise in a raw and real way with our family. As we wandered about enjoying the adventures I received a text one day from the owner of Showhome Furniture saying; “Hey, we want to donate some money- please use it to help people” I was ecstatic! There was an abundance of truly extraordinary people that I could help with this donation. I want to tell you about just one.

I sat down on our couch looking out over the swimming pool and towards the glistening ocean- the sunset was shades of pink and purple that would take your breath away. But it wasn’t the sunset I was thinking about.

There was a young man whose face I couldn’t get out of my head. One of my daughters had befriended him earlier in the year and I felt strongly like I should invite him over for dinner that night. I logged onto FB and sent him a quick message.

I was surprised a couple minutes later, when he replied that he was on the other side of the island, in a tiny village, staying with grandparents, and wouldn’t be able to make it.

I asked him to tell my about his grandma and grandpa. He explained that they were old and dying. They lived in a tiny tin shack. The grandpa couldn’t walk and was mostly blind and the grandma took care of them both, but they had recently come on hard times.

When I asked what that meant, he said that it meant they didn’t have any food to eat and were starving.  My heart broke just hearing the matter of fact way that he explained this to me. I asked him what they needed most, and he said ‘pretty much anything you can think of that an old person would need, they need, but especially some food and soap.’

I gathered my kids together and told them about the money that we had recently received as an unsolicited donation from Showhome Furniture Calgary, and then told them about the old couple I had just learned about.

My kids immediately asked if we could use some of the money to bring them food.  Of course I agreed, and we said a little prayer together, asking God to help us know what to buy that would most greatly alleviate their burdens.  A few minutes later, we jumped in the truck and drove to the biggest grocery store on the island.

We started with buying them some rice and beans and breakfast crackers. Then we added some soap, and shampoo. Knowing how bad the pests can get we put in some rat traps and mosquito coils. Then we added some wash cloths and towels, toothbrushes, toothpaste, some bandaids and antibiotic ointment, some medicine for headaches and fevers. We thought they might be cold and put in blankets and some matches. We wondered if they needed garbage bags and a scrub brush. Laundry clips and a laundry line and the list went on. Every time one of the kids suggested something everyone else said ‘oh yes, they will need that for sure’.

Before long we had two full carts, and we really felt like there wasn’t anything else that they would need. We paid for everything, packed it all nicely into some containers and started our journey down the bumpy island roads.

We first stopped by and picked up the young man we had invited for dinner. His eyes were wide with wonder as he saw the bags and boxes of food piled into the back of the truck but he didn’t ask any questions or say anything. I hoped that he wouldn’t be hurt or offended and prayed that he would see that we were truly just trying to be kind. He guided us across the island until nearly an hour later, at the end of a little road, and far away we found their house.

His aunty came out of the house first and our friend said something to her in their native tongue. She immediately smiled, looking shy. Then the young man jumped out of the back of the truck, and ducked inside the smallest and most humble patchwork of rusty tin, that was the home to his grandparents.

He gently led his grandma out and with his arm in hers, said softly, but within earshot ‘grandma, my friends asked if they could bring you a small bag of rice and I had no idea that they were going to do this.”  Her arms were so tiny and frail that I thought she might blow away with the next puff of wind, but it was her eyes that stuck with me most. She looked so surprised as she glanced down at the offering of food and supplies, and then burst out into the kind of smile you never forget. Her eyes bright with hope, and love, and gratitude, began to weep with tears.

She hugged me and held me as tightly as her weakened body was able whispering ‘thank you, thank you’.

We only stayed a few minutes but I knew then, that when she died it would not be from hunger.

Several weeks passed and I was busy with all our adventuring, not thinking too much on the experience we had had with this lovely grandma. But on one particularly slow day, we called up our friend and asked him if he wanted to come swimming in a waterfall with us that was near the Village of  Teoma where his grandparents lived.

He was very excited and after driving forever in the back of the pickup truck with the rest of the kids, knocked on the glass of the window.  We pulled over and asked him what he wanted. He said that he would like to bring his sister, and if we just stopped at his grandparents house we would find her there. We pulled back onto that bumpy road and bounced up and down until we found the same little house we had visited over a month earlier. We were there for maybe 10 seconds when out of the house, as fast as she could manage on her weathered legs came his grandma. She was undressed except a thin piece of fabric wrapped around her tiny body, but she was clutching something to her chest.

Knocking on the window of the truck , she beckoned me to get out. I was in my swimsuit as I was prepared for the waterfall we would visit, but still I climbed out, hoping she wouldn’t mind my immodesty.

She wrapped her arms around me, and covered me in kisses, and then gave me a brightly coloured, red flowered, island dress. She told me that she sewed it herself and had just been waiting for me to come back so that she could give it to me.  Her beautiful smile and sparkling eyes burst with joy as I pulled the dress over my swimsuit and took a picture with her. I know what a sacrifice it must have been for her to buy the precious piece of calico that would become this dress.

I have no idea how many days and weeks she had been waiting, holding onto that dress, hoping for the day we might stop by, but I was so glad that that day we decided to go there.

From the bottom of my heart I wanted to thank Showhome Furniture for the quiet and kind service that they gave this family and so many others through their donation. You will probably never know the real impact that a little money has had in such a poor country. Thank you and may God bless you for your generosity!

Sincerely,

Rebecca Proffitt

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New Years Eve Wasn’t What I Had Expected!

Sparkling stars shimmered in the light, and tinsel garland hung from everything. It would be weeks before we’d be able to clean up all the glitter that was like a magical blanket spread all over the house. Glitter is the kind of magic that Eric hates.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

We had spent all week getting ready for our New Years party. Something inside of me just wanted to spoil everyone that was coming with the most amazing party they had ever seen. We were so excited to celebrate with our friends, that all the time, all the money and all the hard work didn’t even bother us because we just kept telling each other how excited and grateful everyone would be.

Whisking, and mixing, the girls and I had created a feast to be proud of! The Passionfruit cheesecake was glazed to perfection as it sat covered in the fridge.

We had cut fresh limes which we used to decorate the lime cheesecake and then drizzled it with a light fresh lime glaze. The cherries and whip cream were overflowing from their black forest cake holders which surrounded them and the lemon mouse bars were sinfully delicious.

On top of all that was meatballs, spanakopitas, pinwheels, crackers, cheese olives and too many other things to even name. Probably my favourite treat was the ombre coloured jello made up of 4 kinds of tropical flavours and layered perfectly in the plastic champagne glasses I found hiding in the back corner of a Chinese shop earlier in the week.

We had a wishing tree, gifts for everyone, and hundreds of balloons, a picture wall and so many fun games we probably wouldn’t even be able to play them all. I was so excited. I had high expectations for the evening.

When the time for the party finally arrived Teenagers, Young adults and adults all filled our home to bursting. I had invited 30 people and more than 40 showed up. The tables were piled so high with food I was certain that we would never be able to eat it all.

The party began and even though we all barely fit inside the house it was the perfect group for some of the big games I had planned. After about an hour of games, Eric and I did a short devotional together and gave everyone their gifs. The gifts were books of scriptures that I invited them to write in to use as a sort of journal for the upcoming year. We had searched all over town for the books and had finally found someone willing to sell us all that they had just for the activity.

I invited everyone to eat and then was just getting ready to initiate the 2nd round of games when suddenly, and completely unexpectedly 22 of my 30 guests stood up and told me that they had to leave. I thought maybe it was a joke but I was wrong.

Everyone had other parties that they wanted to attend.

I looked at my basket of unopened prizes and my long list of games that I was so excited to play. I couldn’t help but notice the house which was a total disaster and the piles and piles of empty plates and tables of food. I was shocked that the food had been eaten so quickly.

The 22 people who were going were the best friends I had in Vanuatu. Each one was very special to me, and this party was my gift to them, were they really all just going to leave me like this?

Suddenly a story came to my head, and brought more clarity meaning than ever before:

Matthew 22:1-14

And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said,

2 The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son,

3 And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.

4 Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage.

5 But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise:

6 And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them.

7 But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.

8 Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy.

9 Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.

10 So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.

11 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:

12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.

13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

14 For many are called, but few are chosen.

I wanted to run into my room and cry.  Cry in anger and frustration and disappointment. I wanted to shake everyone and tell them that it wasn’t okay to just leave like this. I wanted to tell the 8 guests that were staying to leave and go home because I was just going to go to bed and hide under my covers. The truth was, I barely knew most of the 8 guests that were staying. They were all people who had been invited at the last minute or by someone else and I really wasn’t close with any of them. I’m sure they would have understood if I told them that the party was ending.

I felt a voice whisper softly to my heart but I didn’t want to listen to it. I didn’t want to listen because I was so sad. But the voice came again and softly reminded me: “Rebecca, look around you- you have your family and 8 beautiful, good people who could use your love and your friendship. Don’t give up because of choices other people are making, make your own choices and enjoy your night just as you planned.” I knew it was the voice of God trying to reason with me.

I was bitter, and I didn’t want to be reasoned with, but He was right (as always). And so I decided to keep going. I played every game and sang every song, and gave out every prize and enjoyed every minute of our celebrations. In fact we ended up having so much fun that we didn’t even realise it when midnight came and went. and before you knew it it was 3:00am and I was sending everyone to bed.

Eric was exhausted, but he kissed me as he said that it was the best party we’ve ever had and thank you so much for throwing it.

That’s my lesson for tonight. Just be willing to let it go. Let go of all the things you can’t control, all the things that didn’t turn out the way you anticipated and just enjoy life as it is.  I am going to slay 2018!

Christmas In Paradise

Christmas in Paradise brought feelings I wasn’t expecting. 

I stared outside the kitchen window as I washed the dishes for the millionth time. It was so hard being away from home for Christmas. I could picture one of the hundred crackling fires that we would enjoy in our living room back home, with christmas music in the background and with the smell of hot apple cider in the air. I dressed up the little boys with tinsel and Christmas lights and that helped a little. 

I imagined looking outside and seeing my neighbours chasing each other with snowballs and working together as they tried to push someones car out of the huge drifts that built up during Canadian winters. I could almost hear the excited chatter of a billion kids as they built another igloo or piled onto sleds and with a cup of hot chocolate gripped tightly in their hands got ready for another run down the hill.

Everything you imagine Christmas to be, and we were experiencing the opposite.

There was no hot water in the kitchen, but that really didn’t matter when every day was sweltering hot and the cool water from the tap was a welcome relief from the heat. I picked up another dish and after washing it, placed it carefully in the dish drainer.

My thoughts turned from Christmas to the hard work of being a mom. I was just getting ready to calculate how many sinkfuls of dishes I had done in our 18 years of marriage when a stiff breeze blew in outside and as if by some Christmas magic snow began falling down gently like angels feathers from the sky. My heart nearly stopped as I squealed out in excitement. “Girls it’s snowing!”

Silence instantly fell over the normally noisy house as kids ran to the windows, and house girls stopped mid work to follow my gaze.  The chances of snow in the middle of December (the hottest month of the year here) on a tropical island are quite slim (impossible), but somehow here we were and it was snowing! I held my breath in as much disbelief and excitement as fills every childs heart at Christmas time. I didn’t have to hold it for very long, before the sounds of everyone laughing at me filled the kitchen walls to nearly bursting. In the place of sparkling icy snowflakes, was hundreds of little tropical leaves falling from the sky in the wind, twirly as they fluttered down to their resting place on the ground.

Sigh… I must really be getting homesick.

I thought back to the funniest conversation that I had overheard between the children just yesterday. They were sitting in the back of a hot truck with sweat pouring down their faces. Eliza looked at the younger kids and said, “Just imagine that we are at home, and that dad went out in the freezing cold blizzard just to warm up the vehicle for us. Now we are getting inside, doesn’t it feel so great to be warm.?” I smiled at their imaginary game, but inside it was hard. It’s hard being away from home at Christmas time. For the first time in 17 years I was without my oldest daughter, had no sisters or brothers (they had long since gone home after their initial visit several months ago) and we were alone. Even our closest neighbours had left to Australia to be home for Christmas.

And now the snow. Not only is there no snow here, there isn’t really seasons here either. The locals told us that there were seasons, the wet season and the dry season. They were right! With the wet season came mosquitoes and tropical diseases such as malaria, & dengue. Plus the wet season also brought on the cyclones. The dry season brought cooler weather and more fun outside for everyone. We were in the wet season.

I knew I would get lonely at Christmas time, I just didn’t imagine it would be this lonely. I put my whole heart into trying to make it the same as it was at home. I invited people over to decorate gingerbread houses- that was a first for everyone who came, and we had so much fun together doing it. But the icing wouldn’t hold and the moisture in the air made everything collapse by morning. 

I served hot chocolate -nobody here had even tasted hot chocolate before and it really isn’t the same drinking hot chocolate when you are cold as it is to drink it when you are hot! I invited kids over and and read Christmas stories during our devotionals every night in December. I did every thing I could think of to make it the same, but nothing was the same. The decorations all fell down because none of the glue would hold, and the tree was sparse and bare.

I think it’s finally starting to settle in that I’m alone and I really am missing home more than I have since we came here.

Some Time Away- Not So Relaxing…

We snuck away just the two of us. It had been 7 months since we last got a moment to ourselves. Not only were we surrounded everyday by our darling crew of 7 but we also had house girls, gardeners and workers that shared our space each day bustling about doing their work. There is something almost sacred about a home and it had been way too long since we were actually alone in ours together..,
It’s always been a dream of mine to visit Fiji, and now that we were so close, the adventure couldn’t wait. Did I have hesitations, leaving my 7 kids alone while we were away? Oh yes! Especially with the all the tropical bugs, and the cyclone season which was now upon us. Also the fact that my oldest, and very responsible 17 year old was away, made making the decision even harder. I was worried of course, about the great number of boys who liked to visit my sweet daughters. And I was hopeful that none of them would use this opportunities to lure them out of the house on some private island adventure of their own.
Tom, our 22 year old adopted island son had been living with us ever since my oldest left to Canada. He had a great relationship with the kids, could drive, and knew all the cute boys who might want to sneak in for a visit. I had given everyone a list of rules and a stern talk with the kids friends making it clear that nobody would be alive if any of them came to visit while we were gone. Of course there were the house girls who would also help out and I hired an extra one just to take care of the babies while I was gone. My kids were going to be just fine I told myself again.
We booked a little cottage in the rain forest online called Colo-I-Suva Rainforest Eco Resort. It sounded so romantic and what married couple isn’t eager to escape the world and trade it for a little romance?…sigh. It was very affordable and still available for our last minute dates, that should have been my first clue. Also it included breakfast, was located in the heart of rainforest and situated on a lake with a pool. It sounded perfect.
When we arrived they checked us in and directed us to our cottage. The rainforest was lovely, birds and frogs, and parrots of all varieties were singing their hearts out, but the rainforest was located on a highway, so the orchestra of animals was also frequented by shouting people and vehicles whizzing by.
There was a lake, well it’s more of a pond, like a great big BROWN pond. There was a pool, a GREEN pool- it had a sign that said ‘closed for a special event’, but I’m certain there was no special event going on, they were just trying to cover for the fact that their pool was the wrong color.
The cottage was cute but it was so musty I could hardly breathe. The tap water came out rust red, and the hot water was luke warm at best. Don’t worry, there was a sign which indicated that you could turn up the temperature of the water if you so desired simply by turning the knob at the top of the water heater.
The knob, however, was so high that no human could possibly reach it. I was not going to be deterred. This was my retreat. I had no kids, and the one thing I knew I could count on was an uninterrupted HOT shower. I was desperate for that hot shower, so I crept out of the bathroom naked and shivering and looked around for a chair to stand on. There were none, instead I settled for a little table.
I carefully balanced the table into the bathroom and climbed onto of it. I was determined to turn that knob. I turned it, all the way to its highest setting. And then tried again. The water was still the same tepid temperature. Oh well I thought I guess no hot water for me today. After drying off with the towels provided, I grabbed the soggy bar of soap and bit of one ply tissue paper- now I knew what the ‘eco’ part of their name meant…
I was excited for the breakfast but the breakfast voucher which was for a ‘free breakfast’ was really only a voucher for $5.50USD and didn’t cover the cost of any of the breakfast options on the menu. When I ordered fruit, yogurt and toast, (knowing I would have to pay extra) I got whole wheat bread. This was a score, because in Vanuatu they don’t sell whole wheat bread! I normally don’t eat wheat but just knowing that I could indulge this once I spread the toast with butter and took a bite. It was mouldy. I’m not sure why this surprised me. I briefly contemplated telling the waitress, but considering the state of everything else we had experienced since arriving I was pretty sure she wouldn’t be too alarmed.
I left the breakfast table hungry, and returned to my room where I picked up the beautifully coloured brochure. It included an interested array of subjects including these paragraphs…
SAFETY “Regarding the security, there have been some distressing violent attacks over the past years but at the time of writing there has been no reported acts of violence..” okay, well that’s nice to know! I looked towards the front door of our cottage and noticed the chain lock which had been installed for our added security. Something didn’t seem right about the way it was installed. I went outside the door and asked Eric to lock it. Then I opened the door, reached my hand in and easily detached it from it’s ‘security’ lock. Well, hopefully we wouldn’t need that lock for our safety!
EARTHQUAKES “You should be aware that we are located in an area at risk to earthquakes. In the even of such an incident, it is important you follow the instructions below.”
CYCLONES “We take the safety of our guests and staff very seriously and therefore we must ask you abide our instructions without question and DO NOT PANIC!”
MEDICAL CARE “Health care in Fiji is not as good as health care in developed countries…” thanks I’ll keep that in mind in case I have an emergency.
FIRES “Please note that when batteries run out in smoke detectors the alarm will sound- DO NOT PANIC!- notify reception and we will replace the battery.” Okay, I’ll try to keep that in mind at midnight..
ROOM SERVICE “Given the distance form the restaurant and bar to your accommodations we do not encourage room service…”
I could have cursed, or cried. But instead we just sat there and laughed. Laughed because life rarely turns out how you are expecting it to, and laughed because it was just too much to hope for that we could be totally spoiled on our vacation away from home. And most of all we laughed because this was our life. Our life which is full of palm trees, and tropical fruits and which looks so desirable has it’s mould and cold water and it’s bugs. And the best part is, it’s okay. It keeps it real.
I opened my scriptures and read 1 Thessalonians 5:18 “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
I think I’ll sit down and write a nice letter to the owners of the resort, because maybe the next guests won’t appreciate such an authentic experience- and then I plan to book a different hotel because two nights is all I can possibly stand in this lovely place!
And after that I‘ll write a list of things I’m grateful for…just so I don’t get too distracted by my surroundings! Rebecca Proffitt P.S. I wrote a nice letter to the owners to which they responded “I have to dispute your experience the toast could not have been mouldy because we pick up our bread fresh each morning” I think the majority of the letter was lost on them…but here is the new hotel we went to