Just some of my continual thoughts

As I read the words of Katie Davis in her recently released book, Kisses from Katie, my heart resonates with this: "I knew that one of God's purposes...was to grow in me...this heart for adoption."  She continues more personally,
In an effort to be real, I will tell you: It was hard...But God continued to show me that adoption is His heart, and it was becoming mine.
Adoption is wonderful and beautiful and the greatest blessing I have ever experienced.  Adoption is also difficult and painful.  Adoption is a beautiful picture of redemption.  It is the Gospel in my living room.  And sometimes, it's just hard.
As a parent, it's hard not to know when your daughter took her first  steps or what her first word was or what she looked like in kindergarten.  It's hard not to know where she slept and whose shoulder she cried on and what the scar on her eyebrow is from.  It's hard to know that for ten years yours was not the shoulder she cried on and you were not the mommy she hugged.
As a child, it's hard to remember your biological parents' death, no matter how much you love your new mom. It's hard to have your mom be a different color than you because inevitably people are going to ask why.  It's hard that your mom wasn't there for all the times you had no dinner and all the times you were sick and all the times you needed help with your homework.  It's hard when you have to make up your birthday.  It's hard when you can't understand the concept of being a family forever yet, because your first family wasn't forever.
Adoption is a redemptive response to tragedy that happens in this broken world.  And every single day, it is worth it, because adoption is God's heart.  His Word says, "In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will" (Ephesians 1:5).  He sets the lonely in families (see Psalm 68:6).  The first word that appears when I look up adoption in the dictionary is "acceptance."  God accepts me, adores me even, just as I am.  And He wants me to accept those without families into my own.  Adoption is the reason I can come before God's throne and beg Him for mercy, because He predestined me to be adopted as His child through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will - to the praise of His glorious grace.
My family, adopting these children, it is not optional.  It is not my good deed for the day; it is not what I am doing to "help out these poor kids."  I adopt because God commands me to care for the orphans and the widows in their distress.  I adopt because Jesus says that to whom much has been given, much will be demanded (see Luke 12:48) and because whoever finds his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for His sake will find it (see Matthew 10:39).
Reading Katie's words is quite similar to reading my own journal.  Although today I am still just here.  God has promised, so He will fulfill in His own time.  If I try to operate on my schedule and act on my emotions, my efforts, though with good intent to be obedient, will be ugly and unsuccessful.  But as I wait on Him and fully yield to the Holy Spirit, He will do it...and it will be beautiful.

Does my heart as a mother ache today? Oh, yes, every time I think about what "my" little boy may be doing at that moment, I long to be there with him.  But I can rest, peacefully, knowing that my Savior loves my little boy even more than I do.  I can trust Him because He is trustworthy.  This is my sum.

Just "Yes."

I think about my dreams, just from seven years ago...I wanted to go to the University of Hawai`i at Mano a and study Hawaiian (language) to teach it and make it more readily available for those wanting to preserve that part of their heritage, but my parents would not allow me (at 16 years of age) to be alone so far away [failed plan #1].  My interest in piano increased and I decided I'd like to pursue piano performance, thinking that it would be a cool way to do something "for God," but my ridiculous number of hours practicing (without proper stretching) gave me lateral epicondylitis which still plagues me today [failed plan #2].  Next it was the combination of my (then dreaded) science courses and working in the pharmacy that fed an unknown aptitude for science, so I pursued pharmacy prereq's for a while, but I decided that would be boring [failed plan #3].  I then focused more on the prereq's for med school, planning to get my degree and focus on research/biochem so that I could go to third world countries and develop immunizations for diseases that others don't see worthy of investing their time or efforts in.  I could not finish completing the prereq's for med school because the schools I deemed legit rejected me (being an out-of-state transfer student is harder than you may think) [failed plan #4].  So I decided to take my love of languages and explored linguistics for a while and signed up for a trip to PNG to see what Bible translation was like, because, well, that's how linguistics is best used.  It was while I was in PNG that it was confirmed to me that linguistics wasn't it either [failed plan #5].  In ways that only God could, He brought my heart back to what gripped me when I was just 5 years old: adoption.  I came home to begin courses with LUO to just finish a Bachelor's in something so I could go on to get an MSW somewhere.

I was not ever excited about psychology, but I had already taken enough classes as electives previously that it would save me the most time in finishing.  I thought that I would finish just a year after beginning classes (December 2011), but realized that I would be wearing myself out with the coursework necessary.  I then thought, "Well, I guess graduating in May 2012 won't be all that bad if I get to keep my sanity" [failed plan #6].  Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha.  I keep making all these plans and I fail.  I make more plans and fail....like seven times over already! I'm an IDIOT!!! Yeah, okay, God.  I get it.  Really, I think I do this time.

I don't know what God wants to do with me.  I know that the passion He instilled in me for rescuing hurting and orphaned children is a big part of the plan.  I'm not sure what His timing is, but I think for once I'm just gonna stop trying to figure out what it is He wants to do with me.  I will simply enjoy Him and the mystery of His plans.    :o]

Proverbs 16, verse 9 is fitting here: "We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps."


20 Boxed Children and 163 Million Orphans

            Most children do not come in boxes, but all of mine have.
            Christmas morning, 1991, with small presents unwrapped and already enjoyed, the more greatly anticipated gift awaited exposure.  As I slowly ripped off the bright red paper with colorful Christmas print, my heart danced inside my chest like a lightning bug inside a glass jar.  I had just unwrapped my very first child, and he was already waiting to be loved on! As my dad assisted with cutting the tape that secured the oddly shaped box closed and untwisted the ties that held my child in an upright position with arms open, my patience wore thin.
            Once out of the box and in my arms, my grandmother inquired, “What is his name?”
            I simply replied, “Eddie.”
            No one knew where I had heard the name before, but that is what he was called.
            About two and a half years later, while shopping with my mother and siblings, I wandered to the back of the store to look around.  While browsing the shelves that seemed to stretch higher than the ceiling, something—rather, someone—caught my eye.  There she was: a little girl, still in her box.  She was so cute with her red and white patterned shirt and matching bloomers! The simple shapes on her shirt led me to believe she must be in preschool, learning what a circle, square, and triangle are.
            “Momma! Momma! I found one I want!” I cried enthusiastically.
            “Which one?” she asked.
            “Her,” I stated, pointing to the little girl with dirty blonde hair and blue eyes.
            My mother quietly denied my plea, “No, I don’t think you should get her today.”
            With a broken heart, I walked away with my mother to meet my siblings before going home…and leaving behind a little girl I wanted to be mine.  Once home, I prayed that somehow that she could still belong to me.
            A few months later when November 22, 1994 came around, my sixth birthday, to my delight the little girl in a box became mine.  Rather than ripping through the box with excitement and discarding everything except her body, I carefully peeled away the tape and unfastened the ties that locked her inside.  I then picked up my “Madeline” and embraced her with long awaiting arms.
            Once Madeline was settled in my lap, I removed what remained in her box.  As I pulled the white papers with green ink out of the small plastic bag, I grew more curious as to what the papers meant.  Not yet able to read big words, I sought out my mother.
            “Momma, what are these for?” I inquired.
            “Well, let’s read them and find out,” she gently replied.
            With careful memory of all the phonics rules I had learned thus far, I struggled through reading the two bold words centered at the top of the first paper, “Adoption Certificate.”
            “What’s ‘adoption’ mean?” I asked my mother.
            “Well, adoption is when a mommy and daddy can’t take care of their child, or sometimes a mommy and daddy might die and their child is left an orphan, and a new mommy and daddy have to take care of the little boy or girl.”
            Stunned that such a scenario was even within the realms of possibility, I walked away to embrace Madeline more tightly, since she must have been left an orphan and was in desperate need of more love.
            The very next time I set foot in a large building that held boxed children captive, I made it my silent mission to somehow bring them all home so they could be loved.  There was no reason not to work hard and complete all my chores every day and do my school work diligently when these kids need to be taken care of!
            So work I did, earning as much money as I could to adopt child after child who was destined to remain in a box unless I did something.  By the time I had adopted all twenty of my Cabbage Patch Kids, I became aware of a bigger mission: there are real kids all over the world waiting to be adopted and loved by a family.
            It is currently estimated that there are 163 million orphans in the world.  To better grasp how big that number is, naming each one of those children at the rate of one per second would take more than five years.  In my understanding, there is no reason that families should delay action in changing the reality for at least one of 163 million.  I’m not waiting, and I’m currently a family of one...or twenty-one, depending on how you look at it.

**This was a short, non-fiction story written in class for English 112, though it may someday serve as the first rough draft for the prologue of a book.**


Mi paitim saksak!

I would have written about this sooner, but I thought for the longest time I already had.  Another story from PNG...

During my stay at Walagu, my teammate and I were set up to rise with the sun and go with other bus meris (women of the bush/village) to paitim saksak (lit: beat sago palm).  I was excited about FINALLY having the opportunity to do something that the natives did-legit work.  By the time this week came, I was accustomed to walking barefoot around the village.  The ground there consisted mostly of hard-packed red clay, so it was easy on the feet.  We were advised to apply plenty of bug spray and take along our water bottles, beef biscuits, bus naip (basically, a machete), and various other small things for our day's adventure.  Once packed, we waited for one of the bus meris to come get us.  I honestly had no idea what was ahead...our hosts kept it a slight surprise.

We walked maybe 4/10 mile down the main path and the bus meris randomly stopped and offered gamshus (gumshoes/garden boots?).  I was slightly clueless as to why they would offer us these when we'd been walking along the main red clay path.  Then one of the bus meris started walking off the main path, into some SERIOUS bus-as in the kind that's nearly as tall as you.  My teammate and I looked at each other and looked at our guiding bus meris to see what kind of foot attire they had on-they were barefoot, so why shouldn't we go barefoot, right? I weighed the present situation for a few moments and spoke up to say that we would gladly take the gamshus.  I praise God for that moment of wisdom.  I love going barefoot and flip-flops are my footwear of choice, but this ground was not to be walked on without proper protection.  We slipped on the gamshus and trekked through the bush, proudly wielding our bus naips and putting them to good use chopping vines, stumps and tall grass in our way (first legit time!).  This journey to the saksak was not predictable.

After walking several yards through the tall bus, we approaches some trees, beyond which we could not see.  Soon we discovered that the trees hid the slope of the mountain.  There was a slight path to follow behind the bus meris, but it was a very winding path.  The gamshus that I was wearing were big for my feet, so when our path was met with the roots of palm trees (if you've never seen them, they are shallow and slippery when wet), there was a lot of sliding.  Had I not been concerned with causing anyone else to fall and if I knew the way, I like to imagine that I would have been the first one down, due to my skill of surfing palm roots.  :)

After maybe 30 minutes or more, we finally reach the sago swamp-and swamp it was.  I had never been to anything like a swamp before, so trudging through muck that was as high as the gamshus I was wearing was not delightful.  Oh-and I believe I forgot to remind you readers that we were wearing skirts, as required.  For reasons I haven't yet sought to understand, sago turns things reddish, though no part of the sago palm that I saw was red.  The sago swamp is almost divided into sections for the different stages of paitim saksak.

The first step of paitim saksak is to actually cut down the sago palm.  This stage is completed by the men.  The substage following this is the *real* paitim saksak, when the men (and sometimes also the women) use an axe-like tool that is angled with dual edges to allow productive swing while sitting.  At this substage, the sage palm has already been felled and the outer layer has been split to expose the pulp.  Workers will then sit on/in the sago to paitim.  When the initial chunks are made, it is more often the women who come behind to use their bus naips to further paitim the saksak.  Once the saksak has been paitim enough, the women will gather the pieces of pulp into their bags (these bags are comparable to rice bags-the kind you'd find at an authentic oriental store, only larger) and take them to the next section.

The second stage of paitim saksak is the "washing" of the sago pulp.  The women take care of this portion.  There is a slanted troth-like structure about waist-height and 4 to 5 ft long that has two filters.  The first filter is about half-way down and the second filter is at the bottom.  Below the second filter is a tub of sorts constructed from multiple bags and bark.  The pulp that was collected at first stage is placed at the top of the troth and "water" from the tub is poured over it.  The next step consists of alternating paitim saksak and squeezing the pulp, mostly paitim saksak, though.  Once whatever water passes through the first filter catches in the second half of the troth, it's all squeezing pulp from there.  From the second half it flows into the tub and the actual pulp settles at the bottom and it's the "water" that sits on top that is reused for "washing."  (The initial source of "water" comes from the swamp.  The most accurate description of the "water" that I can come up with is a beer pond.  It both looks and smells like a big puddle of dark beer-quite disgusting.)  *Note about the second stage: there will be multiple sections, divided by family, though some have more than one.*

Once the pulp has been collected from the bottom of the tub, it is stuffed into bamboo and cooked over a fire.  The consistency becomes something like partially hardened Play-Doh or chalky gummy bears.  There isn't much of a flavor, but it all depends on how it's cooked.  There are a million ways to cook sago (comparable to the number of recipes for Bisquick), but the most popular is definitely plainly in bamboo.  We later heard of more appetizing ways to prepare it, such as with coconut milk in pancake form (didn't have opportunity to sample this).

Having gone on this adventure, we earned the title of bus meri. :) I'd say it was worth it, even if I got too many mosquito bites to count.

**there aren't any pictures because by this point, my camera battery had died. :(


"Trial" village stay

At the conclusion of our orientation, our entire team was sent to a village for a "trial" stay.  We were split among seven homes, mostly two to a home.  Leah, my roommate during orientation, was teamed with me here as well since we would be venturing to our three-week village stay together.

The preparation for this was quite enjoyable, in my opinion.  Up until this point, we've been taught all the basics of Tok Pisin--what we needed to get by.  Now our task was to use it--and only Tok Pisin--for 2 days and 2 nights.  After our language learning, we had been introduced to a few critical cultural differences.  One afternoon our team was split to discuss gender-specific topics.  As women, we learned how to properly bathe in the river--very important, although for me and Leah it was only necessary for three occasions.  We women were also instructed to never step over anything--especially food and people; doing so would make it "unclean."  This particular lesson was more difficult to apply than one might imagine.  You have to completely retrain your mind in how you walk about.  It's like being taught as a kid not to walk between people while they're talking, only in PNG, as a woman, NEVER step over anything, EVER.  Because there is rarely a village with a table and the majority of meals are served on the floor in cramped spaces, this seemed almost impossible at times.

Each pair of us took along a bucket full of food to give to our host families and personal necessities for the weekend (mosquito net, homemade cinnamon rolls, toilet paper, cups, bowls, spoons, etc.).  One "necessity" however was left out: toilet paper.  Now it's difficult enough learning to use the liklik haus (outhouse), then the toilet paper gets forgotten.  Thankfully I had tissues.  Leah was additionally prepared for liklik haus visits during the night, as she had a headlamp.  Very thankful for that.  Moving right along...

Wasfamili bilong mi na Leah (my and Leah's host family) had onepela pikinini (one child).  Her name was Olian and she was eleven months old.  She was so precious, but terrified of waitskins (literally, white-skinned people).  When I first tried to hold her, she cried.  Although she would play with you, she would be at least 5 feet away.  Our waspapa na wasmama (host father and mother) would keep repeating to Olian "Em susa bilong yu" (that's your sister).  She would get this confused look on her face--haha, it was priceless! Our first night in the village was quiet with little activity.  We saw a few of our teammates walk by on their way to waswas (swim/bathe).

Later on, Leah and I went, too, after gathering our supplies and donning our laplaps (large pieces of cloth used primarily to cover up, but a book of "100 Ways To Use A Laplap" could be written).  It's crazy to think about how much stuff we use for a task as simple as bathing! I was a little nervous at first, being very cautious on our long trek to the river.  We passed a couple of kids who were goofing around.  Now, the general rule when going to waswas is that a group calls out to the other prior to turning the last corner.  The women's end of the river happens to be just after that last turn.  There was a close call when a group of guys came, not properly announcing their presence.  Hence, the laplap is never removed.  While bathing, the young girls would just stare at us waitskins.  After so many minutes, we started playing around, splashing them and laughing.  Good times.

binatang bilong sak sak
Leah and I somewhat helped prepare kaikai (food/eat) for the evening.  All we did was butcher cooking bananas na kaukau (sweet potatoes).  There was more to our meal than that.  We had chicken and rice cooked in coconut milk (yum!).  Everything was great, but the meal of all meals was the next evening.  My brata (brother)/teammate Jason and his waspapa  passed by me and Leah during the day and said they were going to get binatang bilong sak sak (sago grubs!-literally bug of the sago tree) for evening kaikai.  MI AMAMAS!!! (I'm happy!) [Sidenote: one of the little things I asked God for prior to departure was the opportunity to eat the infamous grubs of PNG.  We read about them in one of our prep books and I had heard about them from various missionaries.  Prior to this amazing treat I would point to every binatang I saw and ask "Em kaikai?" (Is that food?).  Seriously.  I just wanted to eat PNG bugs.]  Two of our wasfamilis  were related, so we all got together to kaikai and stori (talk about whatever, not necessarily tell "stories").  I was so excited to be eating grubs! Our wasfamilis were laughing at me continually.  The wasmamas (host mothers) kept bringing me more and more grubs! They tasted sooooo good!

Following our kaikai, our stori-ing time began, then shifted into a mini-church service with singing, then the leader asked each of us waitskins to share our testimonies.  At first I thought that it would literally be all of us, but instead he chose a few of us.  I had a Tok Pisin vocabulary of ~60 words.  This was very challenging! But they all seemed to appreciate what I tried to say.  While the rest of those sharing continued, I decided to try to interact with Olian some more.  She was learning to wakabout (adapted from the Australian "walk about"), so I held out my hand--and she took it! My waspapa and wasmama were so surprised and just grinned as they watched me wakabout with Olian.  I will treasure that moment when she first trusted a waitskin.

Leah, wasmama, waspapa, Olian, me
Once the children all showed that they needed to go to bed,  we got our dishes and started on our walk back to our respective houses.  My wasmama was talking to me and Leah and as we both best understood her Tok Pisin, she explained that she and our waspapa decided they were changing Olian's name to "Amy" and when they had another daughter they would name her "Leah."  Talk about humbling! It was crazy...here's this kid who is terrified of us, yet they were changing her name to mine.  Unbelievable that I have a namesake.

That's enough for now.  More to come soon....



culture |ˈkəl ch ər|

the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to future generations (Merriam-Webster: 5a)

the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; the characteristic features of everyday existence (as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time (Merriam-Webster: 5b)

the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization (Merriam-Webster: 5c)

the set of values, conventions, or social practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristic (Merriam-Webster: 5d)