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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!

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

Holy Healing Mud Baths!

The smell of rotten eggs filled my body and I thought I was going to throw up right there.

The good news was that nobody would have noticed because the thick mud surrounding our bodies was much too dark to see anything through. Plus the throw up would had just joined the dead floating crab and other little things mixed in with our hot mud bath. Happily I managed to keep my lunch inside.

We were all rolling around like pigs in the sulfur filled mud baths at the “holy healing waters” that we found on the side of the road.

 

Since the local medicine man was so helpful 😂
I decided to try another island treatment for ailments.

I had Heard that Vanuatu had some natural Hot Springs and mud baths. I’ve been to Hot Springs before and I definitely felt positive health benefits after soaking in them, so I was excited to discover that this island we were staying on had them as well.

When I went on trip advisor the reviews were kind of sketchy, so I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. I knew I didn’t want to go alone, and was delighted when my husband and sister and a few of our kids agreed to make the journey with me.

After driving for an hour halfway around the island and up and down windy mountain roads we finally spotted the hand painted sign indicating that we had arrived at our destination.

Eagerly we pulled in but nobody seemed to be around except a couple village pikininis (children) playing in the grass.

We finally were able to track down someone who was happy to take our Vatu (money) and show us around.

She told us stories of how she was once very large and when she went in the waters she became skinny, and how her dad was crippled and when he went in the waters he started to walk. The truth seemed to be mixed generously with some things that seemed quite unbelievable, but I was happy to be there anyways and was definitely not expecting a miracle 🙂

“You must sit in this pool for 10 minutes. Then you must cover yourself in mud in that pool. Then we wash you off and you sit in that pool.” She pointed up ahead as she spoke to us in her broken English.

The instructions she gave us were quite clear and we obediently took off our clothes and hopped with our swimsuits into the first pool.

It was hot but felt amazing. The water was bubbling up from a spring deep in the earth and you could taste the salty minerals.It felt like heaven sitting in the homemade cement pools bathing in the hot spring.

My 15 year old who usually hates getting dirty and my sister were the first to leave the clean hot spring and take a dip in the mud bath. At first the mud pool was gross. It was smelly, and well…muddy.

Mary, the daughter of the owner of the place, got right to work covering our faces and backs with the mud as we tried not to laugh and throw up at the same time. The smell was pretty overwhelming.

Nate just kept saying “this is so gross, get me outta here” but his mom made him stay anyways.

We all got really into it and soon we forgot the rotting eggs smell and we were floating blissfully into the oozing, stinky mud.

It felt like we stayed forever but it was only an hour in the mud. When we felt ready we got out and Mary washed us off by dumping buckets of warm salty water over our heads and body. It actually felt AMAZING!

As I watched her humble, seemingly boring job serving  us, I couldn’t help but feel gratitude for this young lady. She spent the whole time we were there watching us, telling us which baths to go in and which were too hot (there were some places that the water reaches 90 Celsius / 104 Fahrenheit ). She helped us when we got mud in our eyes and and washed away the mud from our adventure so we could be clean again.

I also couldn’t help but feel gratitude for One who is greater than us all who chose to humble himself and be the servant of all. I am grateful for His guidance in which paths to take and which places to avoid and most of all his loving sacrifice that washes us clean when we are covered in the dirt and filth of the world.

We truly are blessed to have this special time to draw closer together as a family as well as to draw closer to the Savior and see His hand at work in our lives.

 

 

Chocolate Covered Wisdom

The open market had a strange looking bumpy oblong shaped fruit and when we asked the lady sitting cross legged on the mat on the ground behind the table she said “it’s cacao fruit”.

We bought the four biggest ones for 50 Vatu each (equivalent to .50USD) and put them in our bulging market bag.

When we got home Monday night Eric had prepared a beautiful scripture lesson on the Lords timing. He invited everyone into the kitchen where we learned how cacao plants are planted, harvested and turned into chocolate.Image may contain: food

Without the proper timing and process, the cacao fruit which is a sweet fruit with bitter seeds inside, can never be transformed into the yummy chocolate we see at the grocery store.

The girls all gathered together, took apart the cocoa fruit, cut down banana leaves from the back yard and started the process of fermenting and drying the cocao beans.

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After separating the seed from its fruit you must ferment it for three days and then lay it to dry in the sun for three days. After all that you crush it and cook it and turn it into chocolate adding milk and sugar.

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I started thinking about it. Hmmmm.

I wondered to myself How many times do I judge other people or myself , thinking I ought to, or they ought to already be the finished product?

With faith in Gods purpose, plan and timing We can trust the process of growing and maturing and love people around us just as they are.

That’s my thought for today, enjoy your chocolate-we did!!

Jesus Saves!

Late last night my 15-year-old came into my bedroom to sit down and chat.

There was rarely time for this back at home, however, with no TVs or computers, iPods or radios, Island living somehow makes space for beautiful things to grow.

Vanuatu is a tiny group of islands off the coast of Australia classified as a Third World country.
The cost of fuel, food, rent, internet, electricity, gas and a vehicle are all either the same as or higher here in Vanuatu than at home in Canada.

I looked over at my daughter sprawled across the bed, her island braids falling at her side.

“mom, it’s so weird, the people here have nothing. Their clothes are worn out and ripped, they have to walk hours to get anywhere, grown adults work all day for $1.75 an hour, their family members die all the time, and yet for some reason they are still so happy”Image may contain: one or more people, outdoor and closeup

I Lay in bed pondering her comments. What does make us in North America so unsatisfied with our lives? So full of independence, and fear, and anger and hatred? So quick to bully, to be a victim, to point fingers, so eager to complain, so insistent that ‘fairness and justice’ be served. There is nothing fair about this life here, but I have rarely seen even one person show signs of dissatisfaction due to the inequality of their situation.

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Every day children are separated from their mother and father and are given to relatives to satisfy a debt or a custom ceremony.

Cyclones, tsunami’s, & earthquakes flatten their little tin shacks and destroy the precious food growing in their gardens.

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People die often because of infections, lack of medical care, and preventable diseases.

But the people here are not sad, the opposite is true actually. Friends and strangers alike kiss each other on the cheeks, touch each other as they pass by, and yell out greetings as they bump along the dirt roads in the trucks and buses.

I have not met a single person that does not have a deep faith in God. Their faith is not something to be ashamed of. On Sunday, every store shuts down and every person returns to their family and their separate churches to worship. If a cyclone is approaching the community prays together and on the radio, and at the local market it is announced for people to repent, and remember God.

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Here where the dogs and chickens wander into church and the graffiti on the wall says “Jesus Saves”, Gods masterpieces, and His miracles are all around us and nobody is ashamed to point them out or to praise them.

NiVan Grafitti

In some ways our fancy, fast, first world country is ahead of these simple island people, but in many ways we are so far behind.

Our First Sunday in Vanuatu

Birds chirped, the rooster crowed and the soft whispers of the children all wafted into the bedroom reminding me it was time to wake up. Today was Sunday, it was our first day at church in this new country.
We had plenty of time to get ready for the 9:30 meeting. After a breakfast of homemade pancakes with lime/passionfruit syrup we all began getting dressed. At home this usually signals curling irons, hair dryers and perfumes galore, but here it was evident that all of that was unnecessary. I should have known that something was wrong when I heard the girls going back and forth, clothes on, clothes off. It turns out that the dressed we brought which required (as most dresses do nowadays) bras, slips, slip extenders and undershirts. The problem was the weather was hot that nobody really wanted extra layers of clothes to go to church. After much debate in the end we voted that the sheer, thin, short look was going to be our new style. With many Nivans going nearly naked or half naked I’m sure we weren’t scandalizing anyone and we were all much more comfortable.
I had already brought all the girls clothes with us, but since Eric’s suitcase had got lost he was without a Sunday outfit. Luckily on Saturday we had visited a local store and found a dollar bin where all the clothes were a dollar. It was certainly an interesting assortment of clothes and one shirt I picked up was covered in mould, another bleached in various patterns. After a few minutes we actually found a pair of Sunday pants and a nice short sleeve blue Sunday shirt. The outfit cost $2, which in Vanuatu money is approximately 200 Vatu.
We found the church building down the road. A simple structure that was run completely on solar power. With windows for walls and the doors wide open the building began filling up with locals and a few visitors. We found our seats at the back after some friendly faces greeted us. With flies buzzings and a few dogs wandering around it became apparent that I would not be able to enjoy the meeting inside the building. The heat was growing with each new person that entered and the whole place smelled like a mixing pot of body odor that wasn’t very pleasant.
I opted to take one of the chairs that was being set up outside because there wasn’t enough space inside for everyone. With the breeze off the ocean it was much more pleasant outside.
The entire meeting was in Bishlama which is a pigeon language that has many similar words to English but not enough that I understood anything.
Everyone assures me that given a few weeks I’ll get the hang of it and maybe understand something. I admit now that I think I was weary about going to church for three hours in scorching heat without being able to understand the language. I looked over at a wrinkled man in front of me and watched as the first notes of the piano drited outside, he carefully reached into his bag and brought out a crumpled, mouldy hymnbook with his name scratched boldly across the front of it. I was struck by the love this man obviously had for this hymnbook that was so special to him. As the prelude music finished and the hymn began he sang with total devotion and reverence.
By the time the opening hymn began I was totally overcome with the beauty of worshipping. The sea of brown and white faces all mixed together singing struck me with wonder. All feelings of discontent were washed away and I was perfectly satisfied exactly where I was.
Throughout the meeting the babies and dogs wandered in and out. I had to use the bathroom but found out that it neither had toilet paper or water to flush. That was interesting, but all in all the day was perfect.