Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas in PNG

The Christmas season always finds us longing for family and those holiday traditions we hold dear.  But looking back over the last few days, I don’t think our Christmas was that much different from previous years in the US (outside of the fact that our extended family wasn’t here).

We had lots of food….


…and snow.


We had a Christmas tree, gifts...


…and a nativity scene.


We made cookies…


…and even went “sledding”.


So what do you think?  Was our Christmas all that much different from yours?  <grin>

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Sock’s Tale

Once there was a new, brilliant white, short-cuffed, cotton, athletic sock hanging on a rack in a department store. He was a fine Sock, and quite proud of his sturdy construction, his seamless toe, and his promise to instantly whisk away perspiration. Not that he’d ever have to face that problem, because Sock knew he was destined for great things.

And he was right, for it wasn’t long before someone came to Sock’s rack and began searching through all the varieties that hung there. Sock hung almost trembling on his hook, trying hard to gleam his whitest. His efforts were soon rewarded when he heard, “Oh, this is exactly what I’m looking for,” and he was lifted off the rack. Sock mentally congratulated himself for having been white, short cuffed and made of cotton. Obviously, he was made the best of the best, and he was right.

Sock was taken home and placed in a drawer with many other socks. At first he was outraged that he was forced to mingle with the stained, stretched out, and (heaven help him) flimsy navy dress socks. What was his owner thinking to put such a fresh, clean specimen like himself with such a motley crew? He began to wonder how the other socks came to look as they did with holes in their toes and broken elastic in their cuffs. He promised himself to never become so complacent as to end up stretched out, stained and shapeless. He would stay pristine white and shapely no matter the odds.

And he was until the day his owner took him out of the drawer and pulled him on his foot for the very first time. Sock was so excited to finally fulfill his purpose, and prepared to shine his whitest for all to see. But his efforts were short-lived, for in a matter of moments, a big, dark boot was pulled on over the top him. The boot was smelly and close. It rubbed him at the ankle and toe, and completely covered Sock’s short cuff. All day long he suffered in the tight quarters of that boot. His perspiration-whisking abilities were sorely tested, but he rallied himself with thoughts that surely this was just a onetime experience. Maybe socks needed breaking in like shoes and the next time things would be easier. He was comforted and dreamt of the washing he’d receive at the end of the day.

But the washing didn’t come that day; nor did it come the next. When sock had finally been removed at the end of his first long day on the job, he had accidentally slipped under the bed and disappeared from view. For two days he sulked on the floor. He now bore large black stains on his underside. His cuff felt overstretched. He was worried about a spot on his heel that felt thinner, and he knew the smell that made the dust bunnies cower at the far end of the bed was his own. He complained to himself of his ill treatment, but was relieved that none of the other socks could see him in his current state.

Then one blessed day, he was rescued and dropped in a washing machine. He thought, “Finally all will come right and I’ll be my lovely white self again!” He was very happy until he realized that other dirty clothes were being tossed on top of him. “Agh”, he thought to himself, “Don’t they know they’re only supposed to wash me with like colors? What if that red shirt bleeds on me?” And suddenly he remembered that no one had applied stain remover to his underside! Now he would be gray forever.

And he was right. As days went on, Sock came to resemble all the other worn out, used up socks that dwelt in the drawer. He was so often worn inside the dirty black boot, that so soon his heel was thread bare. His elastic cuff began to sag, and his general appearance was gray and sorrowful. Sock chided himself for having foolishly thought he was something special and could keep himself new.

And he was right, but only partly right. For one day, Sock was pulled out of the drawer by very different hands. Small hands carried him away and pushed a nail through his cuff. “That’s going to leave a hole,” thought Sock to himself. But then it hardly mattered anymore really. Still, he couldn’t help but be curious as to what this new task would be, and hope within him stirred. That is, until he found himself hanging from the mantelpiece—out in the open for all to see. Sock was ashamed of his saggy middle and gray hew. This was not what he was meant for. Why did they humiliate him so? Sock hung limp and completely dejected.

004That night, however, Sock woke from his stupor of self pity to feel small boxes, wrapped chocolate and a candy cane shoved inside him. This was very strange. What could it mean? He waited, feeling odd with the lumpy items pushing awkwardly at him from inside. Then at first light, Sock heard a squeal and thudding feet in the hall. A young voice was shrieking, “Oh look at the sock! Look, look! Let’s see what’s inside!”

And little hands ripped Sock off the nail and hugged him close before eagerly digging through his contents. In wonder, Sock watched the pleasure each new item brought to the face of the small one. He wished he could stay there forever giving up new treasures for the impatient little hands. Never had he felt so useful and valuable. He was still gray and worn out, but it hadn’t mattered in the least. The gifts he had given had brought joy to the child. Sock never wanted to go back to that drawer, or worse, that black, dirty boot. Couldn’t he just stay here where he was loved and appreciated?

Apparently the small one had the same wish, for she was asking, “Daddy, can I keep this sock always and hang up again on the mantelpiece?” Sock held his breath and then heard Daddy’s reply. “Sorry, honey. You’ll have to find somewhere else to store your treasures. I need that sock.”

Sock was startled. He was needed? Sock realized that there were many other socks that could fill his role, but his owner didn’t want to let him go. He remembered the day he had been chosen, and his owner’s words, “This is exactly what I’m looking for.” He had been chosen, and that made all the difference. Out of all the hundreds of other socks on that rack, his owner had picked him. Sock suddenly realized that stains, holes and stretched out elastic could be worn like medals--proof that he had been chosen, and chosen again…and again.

And he was right!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Hi-ho Moonpie!


One Saturday morning, the kids had the opportunity to ride the horses kept by Ukarumpa’s Pony Club.  Although one of our children just wanted to “learn how to take care of the horses…not ride them”, the other rode around the paddocks as many times as she was allowed.  Definitely a high point in her young life!  Maybe Aunt Sarah’s equestrian blood runs through our Claire’s veins as well.  But it hits me as funny that Papua New Guinea could be the place to find out.  Just another reason to call this “The Land of the Unexpected”!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Long Nights

I find the nights here in PNG oddly long.  Odd because it feels like summer, and we ought to have plenty of time after supper to walk the dog or play catch in the nearby field—like we do during the summer in northern Wisconsin.  I sometimes forget that all outdoor activities need to be completed before 6:00 PM, and that our evening meal usually takes place behind locked doors and drawn curtains.

Nighttime is so dark here.  In the USA, our days and nights blend together.  Street lights, security lights, road signs and store signs overpower the distant stars in most towns.  Cities never really sleep in America.  We buy groceries, medicine, milk shakes or even insurance policies at 2:30 AM if we so desire.  With 24-hour emergency rooms, towing companies, consumer hotlines and radio stations, we can almost pretend nighttime doesn’t exist.

And I am so newly transplanted from that land of 24/7 assurance, that I find myself a little anxious every evening.  “What if we run out of Children’s Tylenol? What if the water tank springs a leak?  What if I just have to have a sausage and mushroom pizza in the middle of the night?”  I don’t think I’ve ever indulged in a midnight pizza even when it was just a phone call away, but there is something in just knowing you could have it if you really “needed” it.

Here in Papua New Guinea it usually just waits till morning. 

When my daughter was 3, she broke her arm here in PNG.  The accident occurred just as the clinic was closing at 5:00 PM.  Of course, there is always a doctor or nurse on call and they graciously treated Claire as best they could.  The moody x-ray machine, however, revealed a break that our doctor said would require surgery and thus a medical evacuation to Australia.  But because it was dark, no airplane could fly my daughter and husband to that surgery until the following morning.  It was a very long night, and one I don’t wish to repeat.

So as evening sets in, I take comfort in Isaiah 60:19-20.  “No longer will you need the sun to shine by day, nor the moon to give its light by night, for the Lord your God will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.  Your sun will never set; your moon will not go down.  For the Lord will be your everlasting light.  Your days of mourning will come to an end.”  (NLT)  Darkness is so often used in a negative sense in the Bible, it’s no wonder the final triumph of light over darkness is a theme repeatedly found in Scripture.  (Micah 7:8, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, 1 John 1:5)

In ever-bright America, the urgency of this truth was lost on me.  Here in the darkness of a wet Papua New Guinean night, I catch a glimpse of the joy that dawns with that endless day.