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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’

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

 

Tropical Trouble

The oldest girls took a hike through the jungle with a group of their cousins and local friends. All the locals knew that the plant was to be avoided but they forgot to tell my girls. Two of the girls ended up falling down and getting covered in a tropical stinging plant #should’vewornlongershorts. The sting lasts from a week to a month and the only remedy is to find the plant that stung you and crack open it’s stem, spreading the sap on the sting. Here’s the report!

Riding the Island Bus!

Hang on tight if you want to join us for an island ride!

It’s really hard to get cars on the island because everything has be imported from somewhere else. When you find a car and it’s in your price range you snap it up- pretty much regardless of how it works. That’s how we all ended up with the island bus… 🙂 If you want a few bumps and jolts, join us for as Lindy takes out the island bus for the first time!

Gods Perfect Plan of Happiness For Our Family Includes My Teenagers!

“You are ruining my life,” she shouted as she slammed the door behind her. Now both my teenager daughters hated me. The one because I was taking her away from all her friends, and the other because I was preventing her from earning money for college.

Just a couple hours later, and only one night before we were supposed to leave on our big family adventure, my daughter ‘borrowed’ the car, and with her little sister unbuckled beside her, she turned on the music and took off down the gravel road. It was only minutes before she started skidding across the loose gravel. She was going way too fast and  by the time she realized it, it was too late. The car swerved as it careened off the road and flipped into the ditch.

‘Breath deep mom, you can do this’, I told myself again.

God was watching out for my daughters that night because although the car was damaged badly enough that it couldn’t be driven, miraculously they were both without injury.

I prayed and asked God again to give me strength to go through with this. With the extra financial burdens that had been placed on our family over the last year, (since Eric fell off the roof and shattered his foot), taking our family on a trip half way around the world was clearly not practical. Financially speaking, the timing was all off, but emotionally speaking it was just what we needed. Friends and family by dozens pulled me aside to give me advice and shed light on the obvious flaws in my plan. ‘Your kids could get raped’, ‘you might catch an infectious disease’, the ‘you can’t just stop your kids schooling in the middle of the year’, ‘wait until you have more money’, ‘go somewhere closer’, ‘don’t go for as long’. Then there were my own fears ‘how will we pay for it?’, ‘what if the kids react to the vaccinations?’, ‘what if your daughters won’t come with you?’ ‘What will we do when we come home’, ‘We can’t speak the language’, ‘What if we have a medical emergency?’ They were all valid fears, but that was just it. I refused to make my decision based on fears, and inside I felt something urging me to do this.

The expedited American passports we ordered months ago had still not come in, and less than a week before we were supposed to leave we decided to drive to Calgary and get last minute Canadian ones printed. At this point- where every penny counted, the extra $600 seemed like a big price to pay for something we might not need (we were sure those US ones would arrive any day) but we did it anyways. It’s been 4 months and those American ones still haven’t arrived! The Canadian ones ended up arriving the night before we were to fly out, the night my daughter flipped over the car.  I was sure that the stress couldn’t get worse. I was wrong. 5 days before we were to leave we accepted an offer on our house. This gave us less than a week to pack up the entire thing and get it ready to change hands. It was a crazy thing to do but it felt just right.

My kids NEEDED something different. They needed a place to find out who they were without all the pressures and expectations of our North America society. Our family needed a break, some time to just BE together and block out the world. Endless texts, tweets, phone calls, Instagram stories, FB Messages, Disappearing Snap Chats…it was all just taking it’s toll on us.

I knew that God had created me to enjoy life, but I wasn’t enjoying life at all. I was stressed out and depressed and unhealthy, and so was half my family. Things just weren’t  going the way I had always imagined my life to be, and I wasn’t ready to give up. No, I really believed that our family had a mission,  and in order to accomplish that mission we needed to DO something together. Not just something ordinary, but something CRAZY, something BIG.

My little kids were easy to convince- you know how trusting young ones can be. My husband loved the idea, but wasn’t sure how we could possibly pull it off, and my teenagers down right hated IT, and now they hated ME! In fact there were SEVERAL times when I was sure that one or both of them would run away before we had a chance to even step foot on that plane. We compromised and instead of going for a year we decided to go for just 4 months. Instead of going to a 3rd world country where they didn’t know ANYBODY we decided to go to a 3rd world country at the same time as two of my siblings and their children.  And instead of living in a tin shack, like I had wanted to,  we found the perfect house on the beach right beside my brother and sister.

I tried to sell everything I could possibly think of to earn extra money as we carefully prepared for our trip. People on our local buy and sell saw the stuff that we were selling and started asking me questions . I was scared to tell people what we were doing.  I was worried that if I told people what I was doing and didn’t end up getting enough money to actually do it, then they would make fun of me.  I was wrong. For the most part the people around me were wonderful. When they saw how serious our family was about going they really pulled together and helped us out.  Neighbours helped us mow our lawn and pack our house, friends stopped by with meals, and teachers worked extra hard to help us creatively let the girls finish courses and take tests early.

Honestly, this wasn’t anyones dream but mine, and a million times I questioned the rationality of it. WAS I going to ruin my kids lives? Would it REALLY be a disaster? I just kept hoping that God would bless this dream of mine and make it all work out.  For the first month we were here in Vanuatu, Analaea, Eliza, & Mireyah were often in tears.  They hated it. They hated the bugs, the heat, the language barrier, the food, all of it.

I felt terrible. What had I done? I kept praying that God would take our hard work and our sacrifice and He with His infinite wisdom and grace would purify it and magnify it.  The online work that my husband was supposed to be able to do here didn’t work out.  Our expensive, brand new Mac computer suddenly wouldn’t turn on, and the internet was too slow and unreliable even if it had been working.  That meant that money was tighter than I had hoped it would be.

One month had passed and everyone was still pretty discouraged. After infectious diseases, dog bites, boils and blisters we were getting tired. There wasn’t much to keep Eric and I busy, we didn’t have enough money, and things didn’t seem to be improving with the older girls. I had hoped, and prayed so many prayers that things would be better here. That people would be happier and that our family would discover its purpose.

Of course, after all these years I am still so slow to learn. I just needed to quiet down a little and exercise some PATIENCE and FAITH. God’s timing has always been perfect, and when He is ready to bless us, He blesses us! And when He is ready to show us His vision, He shows us His vision!

I can’t identify which minute, or hour or even day it happened, but slowly, gradually it did happen. The MAGIC, the MIRACLE and the BEAUTY of God’s plan unfolded and one by one it changed our hearts.  God took our tiny dreams and made them big.

He sent wonderful, happy, friends who spoke English into my daughters lives.

And he sent people ready to learn about God, and he sent people who needed service and love into our lives.

He sent an iguana and a baby chick into my 13 year olds life which made leaving her horses and cats just a little bit easier. 

We have been here for 3 months already, and my 17 year old doesn’t ever want to leave because she loves it here so much, and my 15 year old spends her days smiling a bit more often while she teaches an 18 year old how to read who never had a chance to go to school.  

Our little boys get filthy while drawing pictures in the dirt with their best friends whose skin is brown, and although they don’t speak the same language they understand each other perfectly .And our whole family laughs or argues as we sit in the hot sand or go for a swim under the stars at night.

There is no doubt that God loves us. That He knew that this was just the right time and just the place for our family to come. And all those tears, and all that money and all that sacrifice was worth it. And even if we get blown away by a cyclone or swept away by a tsunami, or attacked by wild dogs this is an experience that was meant  just for us and it’s perfect not because WE are perfect but because GOD is perfect!

A Boring Day in Paradise….

“I’m soooo bored, we did nothing fun today at all…” That’s what my kids told me in the kitchen tonight. I nearly choked on my food. Approximately three months ago we left Canada to live in Vanuatu and everyday since then has been like a chapter out of an adventure novel. Clearly my kids are getting slightly spoiled in the most tropical of ways. Would you like to know what nothing fun looks like in my homeschooling, God loving, crazy family of 9? 
First we spent a couple hours on the beach. We chased waves, buried each other in the sand, laid in the sun and played with the little boys until I knew I had to bring them in or they would get too much sun.
playing in the sand
Next we walked up and down and collected handfuls of sea glass and almost caught the most adorable bright purple coconut crab I’ve ever seen. We did a bit of watercolor painting and made a little whale out of sea glass on the art paper we brought with us.
Handfuls of seaglass

The little girls came home and picked and sold papaya to all their neighbours while Dad took Eliza for a trip into town on the quad to the private hospital and out for lunch (she dislocated her arm doing somersaults on the beach). 

After that we picked up Mireyah who had spent the entire day with a family in the bush at the top of Snake Hill (hill isdefinitely subjective…more like mountain) eating, swimming and playing volleyball.
 
Next three of kids got dropped off at the village basketball park where they met their local friends and played a game of ball for two hours.
 
We had a good looking Ni-Van boy over for dinner (homemade pizzas), after Bislama lessons with a local lady from church.

 

footsteps in the beach
And once all that was done the younger kids went with Aunty Shi into town to watch the community outdoor movie and Dad took a couple of the girls night swimming. All wrapped up in one booooooooorrrrrrriiiiiiing day. #poorkids #feelsobadforthem #whatasuckylife

 

 

#Ifoundparadise!

Well the jury is no longer out if this was the right place to come.

The day was spent in water so turquoise and white sand beaches that were so soft and beautiful that you truly didn’t believe your eyes.  #nofiltersneeded

Massages on the beach, swinging in hammocks, exploring sunken ships, and eating delicious food at stunning restaurants is what we did all day. It was perfect and truly the most relaxing, fun, day I could have imagined. #mustbeparadise

 

Ya Gotta Have Faith

They promised me that there were steps under the rushing water.

With the sound of the water pounding on rock all around us, The people in front of me and the people behind me waited and watched.

I didn’t believe them. The water was coming so quickly- tumbling, rushing, pouring over the rocks frothing at the sides. How could there be steps under all that?

Finally I got the courage to go forward. First one step and then another, I slowly felt my way forward putting my feet one in front of the other into the middle of the monstrous Mountain waterfall. Up and up I went, never being able to see each step that I took but hoping there would be a steady place to land each time.

The people behind me followed me and the people in front of me cheered for me.

I was never even intending to go in the first place because I hadn’t been feeling well. But when my sister came by with a load full of local women from our church and begged me to hop in I couldn’t resist the invitation. As unprepared as I was, with no towel, or bathing suit, I was so glad that I had been persuaded.

Image may contain: 6 people, people smiling, people standing, outdoor, nature and waterAlthough the day was drizzly and grey the entire hike up the waterfalls had been pleasant and beautiful. I especially enjoyed the activities with the local women that we have been invited to. It wasn’t until The hiking was mostly done, and we had nearly reached the very top of the nearby Cascade Waterfalls that things started to get rather scary.

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I had successfully made it UP the steps that were hidden behind the rushing water, and after climbing over boulders and around trees I saw the view that made it all worth it.

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There at the top was the beginning of the waterfall, a giant torrent of liquid spilling over the rocks and down the mountain pounding & crashing into pools at the bottom. It was truly beautiful.

After I had spent some time just appreciating the magnificence of the waterfall I turned around and headed back down.

This time I KNEW that there were steps underneath the water. I couldn’t see them, but I knew that they were there because I had just climbed them. Armed with this knowledge I started going back down confidently through the pools of rushing water. At that moment two interesting things happened.

The first thing that happened was that I noticed a rope which I happily grabbed onto and tried to use as means of steadying myself as I climbed down. Almost as quickly as I noticed the rope the time came where it was no longer heading the direction I needed to go. I knew I had to let go. I was trying to get back down the same stairs I had climbed up but this time I felt my feet slipping, being pulled by the great force of the waterfalls current as thousands of gallons of water and thousands of pounds of pressure all headed down, swirling around my feet nearly sweeping them down with them. If I stood still I was fine, but when I started to move I was unsteady.

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I began to feel nervous as I realized that I wouldn’t be able to make it in my own. I glanced around at all the people some going up some going down each person struggling to find their own safe path oblivious to my need.

Finally I noticed a young man in front of me a bit further ahead. He looked strong and remarkably secure in his footing. I had to yell to be heard above all the noise of the water, and truthfully I was embarrassed as reached out my hand and begged him to hold it as I climbed back down the stairs.

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After thanking the man for helping me, I took a moment to reflect. As I sat under the shade of a giant tree, I suddenly became overwhelmed with the beauty of my experience and started to recognize lessons that could be applied to my life. I d like to share them with you 🙂

“There are stairs beneath that waterfall”- The gospel of Jesus Christ is a beautiful gift from God. I know for myself there is joy to be found from following the teachings of Jesus Christ. There are many in life, who are doing what I did with the waterfall. They are looking at the path ahead with doubt and fear, but in order to experience the beautiful view at the top we must take those steps, and when we cannot see the stairs we must exercise faith.

Letting Go- The rope was there the whole time, even though I only noticed on the way down. It was a guide and a help to me, but the time came that I had to let go and go a different direction. Sometimes in our lives there are things we need to let go of in order to more fully follow Christ. It could be fears, unhealthy habits, friendships that pull us down, or possibly even aspects of our culture or upbringing that are not in harmony with God’s plan of happiness for us. When we recognize the right time and the right things to let go of we are making room in our lives for many more things that are good that will bring us even greater joy and success.
Asking for Help- Pride is one of my weaknesses. From the time I was little my parents taught me that I was strong, bright and capable. I hate asking for help, but this time I really needed it. What I found out afterwards was that the man who took my hand was actually a worker at the falls. He had been there hundreds maybe even thousands of times. He knew exactly where the sure footing was, he knew just the right way to bring me and he was happy to help. In much this same way Jesus Christ can be our sure footing. His hands are stretched out ready to take ours at any moment. He knows the way, because He is the way!

I’m sorry this post was so long, thank you so much for sharing in my little adventure today. May God bless you in your journeys as He is in mine  xoxo

Bathroom Woes

I am pretty sure that nothing in Vanuatu is like back home.. I guess I held onto that hope for too long. I was pretty happy that at least in Vanuatu we got toilet paper (in some places at least-my mom actually carries a roll around in her purse because not all the bathrooms supply it) I asked why it was pink at first, but no one really had an explanation. Maybe it’s so people can use it as streamers on the side 😉.

Anyway, uncle Dustin decided to tell my mom about the massive bag of toilet paper she could buy for only 200 vatu (approximately two dollars). It was even normal coloured. I guess I should have known nothing is normal here.

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Now we are wiping ourselves with rolls of toilet paper about an inch wide. Really?! It’s okay though, my mom told us that she solved the problem by putting three on the holder at once and just carefully winding them to match up (and work as one)… let me tell you, it doesn’t work. Well at least we got a money saver there… I really just want normal toilet paper again 😫😂

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The Stabbing!

He went to the hospital tonight…

It’s not that he wanted to but this time he really had to. Since Analaea’s dog attack where we just decided to go without stitching and put her on antibiotics ourselves I had inquired on the condition of the local hospital.

When the pharmacists, locals and health professionals that I spoke to Said, “don’t go to the hospital unless you really have to” and “avoid the hospital at all costs” we decided to just take care of her at home.

Treating yourself seems to be the safer option in many cases here, especially because you can just walk into any pharmacy and buy any drug you want-Yes I’m serious but more on that later!!

Tonight there was really no choice. I took one look and no it was definitely not something We could deal with ourselves. Poor Eric.

He was making fresh coconut milk for our island dinner when the newly sharpened knife slipped and delivered a good sized gash across the palm of his hand and deep into the flesh. He screamed my name as the blood spurted out across the wall but I didn’t hear because I was busy chatting with my sister in law outside. He yelled again for me while he grabbed a cloth and wound it tightly around his hand.

It was no use, I was too far away to hear, and in the end my brother Dustin finally was the one that grabbed the keys to the truck and took him.

Because I got to clean up the pools and splatters of blood at home this report is in Eric’s own words when I asked him how was the hospital really was…

“Well it was smelly, and hot and kind of dirty and well unique.”

He continued…

“The sterile kit was definitely not sterile as I could see the previous stains on it and it was only wrapped in a cloth. There was dried blood on the floor and wall from somebody else.”

So far It sounded pretty much like I had imagined, I was so glad I wasn’t there.

“Yu Kam” said the nurse as he led Eric into the back room. No more English was spoken so it’s a good thing Eric had picked up some Bislama since we’ve been here 🙂

The doctor never actually showed up which meant that the nurse did the stitching himself. He couldn’t find all the supplies he was looking for and disappeared a few times before he was able to get everything right. In the end Eric was pretty sure that the freezing of the wound was much worse than the stitching and the wound itself.

Finally he was stitched and sent home, when he went to pay the $5 hospital fee they charged him $30- probably because he was white. Haha, I love the mathematical discrepancy!

Even at the steep price of $30 for a hospital visit visit there’s no illusions that the medical professionals here are getting rich off of anybody. We were so grateful that there was even a hospital here at all and very happy to only have to go in for something minor. You really learn to appreciate even the simplest things here.

Of course the real challenge is to keep it now from getting infected in this warm, moist, bacteria happy environment, but for now I’m just glad I’ve got my husband home with a hand that still moves. God is good.