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A lesson I learned from a seashell

The wave crashed up washing black sand and frothy sea foam onto my bare feet and with it came a little white shell. I bent down and picked  it up. Inspecting it carefully, I turned it around and around and then tried to return it into the ocean where it belonged. Rather than throwing it back I found myself whispering ‘just one more’ and guiltily stuffing it into my pockets.

I laughed aloud at myself. Every. Single. Time. I saw a shell or a sparkly bit of sea-glass I felt compelled to pick it up. IT’s like I was remembering my childhood and hadn’t yet grown out of the habit of trying to keep pretty things. In fact my own collection of seashells which sat neglected on the countertop at home, was bigger than both my other sea collecting daughters pile. This  obsession was becoming a problem and I’d have to stop soon!

My kids who were ahead me on our walk came running back with their hands full of large dirty and broken seashells that they had found at a burnt out fire-pit. They were the huge snail shells that the locals would catch when the tide was out and roast over the fire for dinner. I remembered clearly not too many nights ago when Eric and I had heard noises outside and gone with our flashlights and machetes to investigate.

We found a group of grown men squatted around a fire, laughing and joking. Eric and I were so entranced by their meal and methods had ended up staying and swapping stories until late into the night. When their rice was finally cooked in the heavy pot they had positioned overtop the fire, more men startled us both by seemingly appearing out of nowhere and throwing down their evenings haul. They had been out night diving and they had collected  one small fish and 5 large snails. This would make the perfect meal they told us with a grin.

We sat for hours visiting and watching as they taught us all the best ways to prepare snails and fish and rice. And then sometime after 10pm when their meal was finally cooked they divided it all up equally amongst themselves and dug in with their hands. Juicy snail water dripping off their fingers and contented smiles on their messy faces they offered us some of the food, but we declined.

My mind jolted back to the present and I looked at the shells in the kids hands. They were ugly, brown, and burnt from the fire. But as I turned one around I saw a hint of mother of pearl. I Remembered back to my old childhood days on the islands when I would bring shells to my father and as if by some kind of voodoo he would transform them into something so breathtaking I was sure it had been made by magic or mermaids. There was mother of pearl in these shells, I was sure of it.

I excitedly told the kids that we were going to do a science experiment. I had seen a bottle of Muriatic acid in the old shipping container out back and was sure it would do the trick.  They had no idea what I was planning but I bossed them around telling them to get bowls and gloves and glasses and shells and water. We set everything out on the table and filled up the first bowl with the strong acid. Careful not to splash we gently set the dirty shells into the clear liquid. Immediately it started to bubble attacking the impurities and eating away the calcium coating.  Only minutes passed before their hidden treasure started to show itself.   Layers of Calcium Carbonate which had taken years to create, quickly dissolved and in it’s place was an iridescent shimmery shell that looked incredibly more beautiful and valuable than anything the children had ever seen.  They were mesmerised by the transformation and began asking so many questions. Where had it come from? Why was it covered up? How did I know it was there?

I was having a proud mamma moment at having successfully impressed my kids as well as nephews when I realized that God had his own message He was trying to tell me.

I excitedly told the kids that we were going to do a science experiment. I had seen a bottle of Muriatic acid in the old shipping container out back and hoped it would do the trick.  They had no idea what I was planning but I bossed them around telling them to get bowls and gloves and glasses and shells and water. We set everything out on the table and filled up the first bowl with the strong acid. Careful not to splash we gently set the dirty shells into the clear liquid. Immediately it started to bubble attacking the impurities and eating away the calcium coating.  Only minutes passed before their hidden treasure started to show itself.   Layers of Calcium Carbonate which had taken years to create, quickly dissolved and in it’s place was an iridescent shimmery shell that looked incredibly more beautiful and valuable than anything the children had ever seen.  They were mesmerised by the transformation and began asking so many questions. Where had it come from? Why was it covered up? How did I know it was there?

I was having a proud mamma moment at having successfully impressed my kids as well as nephews when I realized that God had his own message He was trying to tell me.

I grabbed my scriptures and started flipping the pages. I remembered reading about this somewhere. The book fell open to Joshua 3: 5

And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the Lord will do wonders among you. 

I read another scripture:

The Savior said: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the light of this people. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. “Behold, do men light a candle and put it under a bushel? Nay, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house;“Therefore let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

Image Credit: Wikipedia

The mother of pearl had always been inside that shell. It took a process that I am sure would have been painful to that shell if it had feelings to feel. But it was worth it! It’s light was shining. I want to be like that shell, broken and covered in sin and sorrow but humble enough to turn my life over to He who can heal. He who can make whole. He who can erase my sins and make me new again, even Jesus Christ.

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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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

The Christmas Tree

The Christmas Tree

Hundreds of trees of every shade of green surrounded our little home on the beach. The giant nabunga tree was visited daily by children climbing it or hunting the cobra constrictor snakes that lay hiding inside. The palms were overloaded with coconuts that we used for our meals. Mangos dropped by the dozens each day from the mango tree and were gathered up by kids, neighbours and friends who filled their bags to overflowing with the tasty treats.  The avocado tree provided more avocados than you could imagine eating and the papaya trees, banana trees and lemon trees all contributed their small part to the family dinner table as well.

The trees were so beautiful, each one different and each one doing their part for the community. I sat outside on the deck swing looking over towards the edge of the yard. This wasn’t the first time I had noticed the towering tree whose canopy of dead branch spread out into the sky and overtop of the road and swimming pool. In fact several times throughout the year I had wondered about it.

Several months ago we had hired a master tree cutter to remove all the dead and dying trees to protect us from dangerous flying branches during the upcoming cyclone season. I had laughed thinking about just what a fool the so called expert was that he could be hired to do a job and miss something so obvious as that large tree I was now staring at. 

In November I discovered that it was I who was the fool. I woke up to the birds singing loudly outside one morning and when I peeked through the bedroom window I  beheld to my amazement that the whole world was covered in a sea of bright red blossoms. That big tree that I had resented for taking up so much space in our yard wasn’t dead at all! In fact it was more alive and vibrant than any tree around. I couldn’t believe that all this time, I had been wrong.

When I asked the local villagers the name of this glorious tree that had just come alive in my garden, they said it was called the “Christmas Tree”. All year it just simply waited. Waited for it’s time to bloom. And while I secretly criticised it for it’s empty bare branches, it knew all along that it was something much more.  Then, just when we were getting ready to celebrate the birth of our Savior the tree amazed us with it’s magnificent display of colour. Each day the thousands of vibrant red petals falling from the top of the high, high, tree and cover the world with a fresh coat of colour.

I bent down and picked up the delicate, rich blossom studying the black and yellow and red so intricately woven into the shape and colors of a flower.

“Remember the worth of a soul is great in the sight of God” the scriptures were trying to teach me again.

I thought back to all the times I had felt discouraged, downtrodden, and useless. My physical limitations preventing me from doing so many things I wanted to do, or my financial situation making me unable to give as much as I wanted to give, or endless nights awake with crying babies creating a hazy dissatisfaction with my role as mother during the day.

When all the earth trusts, and obeys God so completely, why am I so impatient and filled with doubt?

I looked down at the flower in my hand again, but this time noticed the dirt on my hands. I didn’t even remember how it had gotten it there, but now the camera was put away and there it was. Sigh…it always comes back to Jesus doesn’t it?

For without Jesus there would be no atonement, and with the atonement each of us would be so burdened with unresolved Sin that we could never return to live with God again.


I am learning that like the Christmas tree, sometimes we must trust God and wait.  It takes faith, and patience but I am guessing that if it’s anything like what is happening outside my front door, dirt and all, the results can be breathtaking, glorious and better than anything we could have imagined!

Beckyboo
P.S. I’d love it if you’d share a personal experience of when you waited on God 🙂

Camping in Paradise

‘It’s okay, just breath deeply and go to sleep.’ I felt a giant spider scamper across my arm and a cockroach tickle my forehead as it made it’s way over my face. This was going to be a loooong week. There were a lot, and I mean A LOT of bugs here.

Seriously why are there even spiders this size?

We had decided to take the family camping because well we didn’t have anywhere to live so that made it an easy decision. When we originally were planning to come to Vanuatu we thought we would just stay for 4 months. But the time came and went so quickly and everyone was enjoying our trip so thoroughly that nobody wanted to go home. We spent a few thousand dollars, changed our plane tickets, bought more travel insurance and extended our visa. It seemed expensive, but truthfully the price was so small in comparison to the gigantic return on investment.  For once in a long time our family was really content and everybody felt it and nobody wanted to let it go.

When we changed our tickets from 4 months to 12 months we needed to find a new place to stay and went camping between rentals.  It’s not like I had any camping equipment so we chose a place that had tents and beds already in them.  It was magical. Beach tents on the ocean, the breeze and the ocean and the birds.

We spent endless hours walking, swimming, playing with birds, roasting hotdogs, laughing and chatting around the fire. Everything was really fantastic. But there was more in store for our family.

The kids and Eric were walking down the beach when they found a path that led to a village through the bush. They ended up buying some island potatoes from them but when it was time to go home the entire village full of children followed them. For the next few hours they played soccer in the field.

At dinner time I called my kids for dinner and my kids as well as at least another 10 kids showed up. For the next four days and nights these beautiful village kids showed up at our tents at 6am, stayed around the fire laughing and singing with us and sharing our meals. Pretty soon I wasn’t cooking for 10 I was cooking for 20. I was running out of food, and you’ll see in the video the creative ways that we found to keep eating as there wasn’t a store in a million miles from us. We gathered coconuts, ate island potatoes and even collected sea urchins when the tide was low and roasted them over the fire! #gross

This group of sparkly eyed, brown skinned, big smiled children joined us for movie night cramming everyone into one small tent to gather around the little computer screen and watch Moana and home videos with us.

They followed us to the waterfalls when we went hiking and were waiting for us till well past dark every night if we ever ventured out anywhere.  At the end of every night Eric would load up the truck with everyone and drive them home. It was sometimes 10 or 11 o’clock at night when kids were sprawled out all over each other exhausted from hours of playing. Some nights they just walked themselves home dissappearing into the blackness without a sound.

The BEST most beautiful part of the entire camping trip was the morning that we were to leave. At 6am we heard noises outside. The mommas, the dads and the children from the village were all there.

They came up and showered us with shell leis, necklaces, fruit, potatoes and a woven mat. The momma’s said to me “you fed our pikininis everyday and now that makes you their momma too, so we bring you presents” Everyone cried as we left this magical bit of paradise and said goodbye to our new friends. It was truly an amazing, fantastic, unforgettable experience and I now have ALOT of new children!

Watch the videos to join in the magic and it truly was magical!

Rebecca