February Friday Favorites

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The longer I write the more I realize how much I love random.

Often, my favorite posts come out when I plan absolutely nothing. I just sit down and dash off words…because that’s the best way for me to be me, exactly as I am. And that’s where I am today.

As I’ve started to write a few more words this year…and we’re getting there…I’m realizing how at home I am with my keyboard and my thoughts. And, of course, my coffee.

Can I just confess right now that we have exactly enough Indonesian coffee to make ONE MORE POT, and I’m heartbroken. I literally can’t bring myself to use it up. And so I sit here, drinking my random, donut shop blend. And it’s still ok, but it’s definitely no Aroma Kopi, which is the best there is. Ever. (Can we just go to Indonesia? Seriously, I’m headed back next year for a visit…I’d love to take a friend along!) :)

So I love Crystal‘s Friday Favorites linkup at the end of every month…just a chance to share some favorites. It’s fun, it’s one of my favorite ways to write and share, and so I’m jumping in and hanging out at her space today. I love it. :)

And now, I bring you some of the current faves.

And I’m sorry there’s no giveaway this month, but I AM giving away something completely awesome on God-sized Dreams in a few weeks, so keep your eyes open for that one. (You WON’T want to miss it!)

Read

I haven’t done much reading lately. I’ve bounced around several of my favorite blogs and caught up with some dear sisters. That’s probably been my favorite reading for the month. Here are two that spoke to me so deeply.

My friend, Gindi, was featured at Kristin Schell‘s blog this week. I completely adore her story of community and how God is weaving that into her heart and life. I’m also completely jealous that it is warm enough in Texas to have a turquoise table in her front yard, year-round. I have to wait until spring, but I’m hoping there will be one in my front yard soon, too! Gindi is one of my dear friends, and I hope you will stop by to read her beautiful words.

This post really got me. Hard. God has been working on a lot in my heart lately…I haven’t really talked about it here because there are times when there just isn’t a way to process it all. (I did just try to process it and just ended up with a tangle of words. So we’ll talk later.) :) But you should read it.

And maybe the most reading I’ve been doing lately has to do with my Bible. I’m really trying to be in the Word more. Oh, I fail sometimes. But the times I do spend there are so sweet. So precious. So needed.

Watch

I pulled out an old favorite series and shared it with Mae a week or so ago. I was completely impressed that she sat through two episodes and laughed at the funny parts. (And she also continues to talk about the time that Sara smeared a cherry pie in Felicity’s face. Ahem. I don’t think that was exactly the takeaway.) 😉 I’m a bit of a goof, but I love older tv, the good stuff, when I know I don’t need to worry about what my daughter will see.

Also, anything remotely related to Anne of Green Gables always. wins. Always.

You can watch the first episode free here…which is all kinds of awesome. :)

Wear

heart necklace selfie final
My favorite thing to wear right now, hands down, is my heart necklace. Since last summer, I’ve been looking for the perfect necklace…a sweet way to remember the babies we’ve lost and to honor our precious daughter. I looked everywhere and finally settled on this one from Etsy. It has Always Love stamped on the outside and Maelie’s name with the initials of our two little ones in heaven, I.M. and C.K., on the inside along with a stamped dandelion and their three birthstones. The dandelion was part of the original design, and I thought it was the perfect hug from God since a dandelion was the image that came to my mind just days after we lost our sweet Carly.

I wear it every day, and I honestly can’t imagine a day when I won’t.

I’ve also been wearing more workout clothes. Two weeks ago, I just decided it was time. Time to eat better and work out more, and it’s good. It’s amazing how drastically reducing sugar (it helps that I gave up dessert for Lent) has also made me want healthy food. Case in point? It’s 8:30 a.m. and I want grilled chicken and avocados. (No lie.)

Ok, that was random. 😉

I also vowed that this month I would wear a pair of earrings. Um…I bought a pair and then chickened out of wearing them in public. I promise I will wear them this weekend. And, of course, I’ll document it for next month, too.

Listen

One of my favorite things is to have coffee with a friend…just to chat and listen and be. Not kidding, if I were given a choice of anything, that’s what I would choose to do with a free hour or two. (If I were given a day full of coffee dates for my birthday, I would completely be in heaven. Just fyi.) 😉

I love this song, too…I’ve basically decided it’s the soundtrack of my season. I’m working on it in voice lessons…not sure I’ll ever do anything with it, but it’s beautiful. And a reminder I need every day. So have a listen and then download it at iTunes if you so want. (I may or may not play it on repeat often.) :)

And that brings us to the end of the favorites, at least for today.

What are some of your current faves?

Happy weekend to you all. Hugs. :)

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Lessons From Indonesia: Disliking Durian

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Happy Monday, friends. :)

It’s well into the afternoon before I’m even finding my blog today, but that’s ok. Some days, especially when you’re the mama of a four year-old, there are other things that are way more important. Like smearing copious amounts of red glitter glue all over paper and thankfully not the table.

We created a memory. A sticky, sparkly one…and I’m breathing thanks for it and for my sweet girl today. :)

It’s so funny. Every Monday, after I’ve posted, I tell myself that next week I’ll get this all ready to go before Monday.

I never do. Never.

Thus proving to all of you that I am a procrastinator in the truest sense of the word. 😉

Honestly, the weekend was a good one…it was busy enough and I’m still run down enough from being sick…that last night I was tired. I watched tv instead. (And that’s ok…I’m giving myself permission for things like that lately.)

And even though there’s always an elevation in my heart rate when I share a new story, I love handing over this piece of my heart to all of you. Even almost five years after life in Indonesia, that time in our lives still remains such a precious part of who I am. I embrace that, especially on the days when I want rice for breakfast. :)

This is one of my more quirky stories. I remember writing it at Starbucks late on a Wednesday night two years ago…there was laughter between sentences and a lot of caffeine flowing, and it’s still one of my favorites.

I love hearing from all of you, but especially if you’ve tried durian, I’d love to hear your thoughts. After all…this is just one snarky opinion, written by someone who’s not completely Indonesian. :)

And there are durian lovers out there…kind of a lot of them.

Enjoy. (And please forgive the quote I used…it may have been the most accurate and descriptive I could find.)

😉

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34

 Indescribable, something you will either love or despise…Your breath will smell as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother.
Anthony Bourdain

Durian.

From practically the moment we stepped into the country of Indonesia, and probably even before, we’d heard about it.

The elusive, unique, all-its-own-kind, supposedly-wonderful-but-often-detested, fruit so pungent it was banned from many places including airplanes, most hotels, and even mass transit systems.

Tell me…after that description, would you have high hopes?

Most people never do. You can smell the stuff just passing by a stall where it’s sold on the street and its hard, outer, spiky shell has yet to be cracked open.

But for some reason, I did.

Have high hopes, that is.

Durian.

It was rumored to have once been an event on Fear Factor, and that alone was enough to pique the curiosity of this girl who planned to adventure as much as possible during her time in Indonesia.

And not only was it in fruit form, you could buy it in ice cream or baked into bread or it could even surprise you when you bit into a donut.

Believe it or not we didn’t dive into trying it immediately. First of all, a chance didn’t exactly fall into our laps, and it didn’t come squirting out of a donut either…thank you, God, for that. And so we never even pushed for a chance to give it a try.

Maybe it’s because the smell was truly enough for me.

Our opportunity finally came in the spring of our first year.

We had some good friends who were Indonesian, and they wanted us to take us to the Chinatown area of Bandung for dinner one Saturday night. Tobin and I drove our motorbike, following them on theirs, to a tucked-away section of the city I had never known existed, and had an amazingly good meal of pork nasi goreng and pisang goreng with chocolate and cheese. (I actually still think of this night often…that was some pretty good food.) :)

After dinner we walked around the area a little and decided to go out for “dessert.” (Funny, because I thought the cheesy, chocolate banana qualified as dessert.)

It was quite the bike ride to get to our destination, but they finally pulled over in front of a stand at the side of a pretty busy street.

Hello, durian.

I’m not sure if I’m excited or not to make your acquaintance just yet.

Our wonderful friends knew what they were doing, and we clearly did not, so we just stood and watched as they paid for one of these large, brown, spiky fruits…an object that I was sure could be of far better use as a piece of sports equipment rather than something to eat.

But if so many people raved over this delicacy, there had to be something to love about it, right?

Our friends took the fruit, which was now cracked open, and offered us some. They showed us how to pull out a section, which we both did so, reluctantly, taking the smallest pieces.

Watching them start to eat, clearly enjoying the entire experience, we put the fruit into our mouths.

Actually, I’m still not sure why it is even classified as a fruit…it tasted like stinky gym socks with a little garlic thrown in there.

And I do believe that was a very kind statement.

I choked it down and, probably-less-than-politely, declined seconds.

EW.

EW.

And I managed to keep it down, too, which I believe qualifies as a success worthy of some kind of medal. For it was truly that bad and it took all I had to keep myself from losing my dinner on the side of the road.

But the one thing everyone says about durian is that to appreciate it, you have to try it three separate times. Two of my friends even attested to this fact…after three times they liked it.

Honestly, that was hard to fathom after the one bite I had, quite literally, choked down.

Enter time number two.

As a birthday party/introduction to the Indonesian culture for new staff, several girls hosted a fruit party at their house. The party itself was actually a great idea…there are tons of incredible fruits available in Indonesia, and I would never turn down a chance to eat manggis (my favorite!) or rambutan.

After we’d all tried the good stuff, one of our hosts pulled out the durian.

In my head, I’m thinking…this is my second time. Surely it’s got to taste better than the first.

I watched the birthday girl have her first taste, and she swallowed it down like a pro, even exclaiming, Oh, it’s not that bad!

I just figured we’d lucked out and ended up with an exceptionally wonderful piece of this particular fruit, and her exclamation was followed by a few others who ate it and liked, or at least tolerated, it.

The pressure is kinda on here, Mel…

I reached for a bite, popped it in my mouth…and…

Blech…

Ok, ok, so I didn’t throw up, though if I had let it hit the back of my throat, I’m quite certain I would have lost my breakfast or lunch or whatever meal I’d eaten previous to the party.

That time, I spit it out right into my hand. I didn’t care who was watching.

And thought, What the heck does everyone see in this nastiness masquerading as a fruit?!

It was quite a while…over a year later…before I even wanted to go for my third try. I was pretty much convinced, by that time, that it was pointless.

Some friends and I were at a local shopping mall, and we passed one of my favorite restaurants there, which also served gelato. The workers there were always great about letting us sample the different flavors, and I noticed that there was durian flavored gelato.

Yes, yes, I realize what you are thinking by this point. Durian-flavored gelato is NOT the same as durian. Point well taken.

But if you want a happy ending to this durian-sized fairy tale, this is going to have to be it.

I took a bite.

Uhhh…mmm? Maybe.

Of course, we are talking about gelato here. Not some silly, spiky, grayish-brown, somewhat-spherical fruit.

Then I asked for another sample. Chocolate chip to wash the flavor down. 😉

And that, my friends, is where the saga of my life with durian ends.

That third attempt, in the form of an ice-creamish substance, was my last time.

 The truth is that I think everything is worth trying once. Or even three-ish times. But sometimes, there’s just no hope, and it’s best to move on to things we do like. Like cheesy, chocolate, fried bananas.

A year and a half later, we left Indonesia. Among the very long list of foods I was sad to leave behind were most of the wonderful gelato flavors available there, my favorite fruits, and many Indonesian foods.

But durian-flavored…anything…didn’t make the cut.

And I’m totally good with that. 😉

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Photo Credits: Hafiz Issadeen, Tagosaku

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The stories I’m sharing are about a place and people who are in my heart forever…I never want to paint a negative image of them or their amazing country. Therefore, I ask for your grace over each word and story. I pray that I share these words well.

The above is an excerpt from Lessons From Indonesia: On Life, Love, and Squatty Potties. All words and stories are my own and are copyrighted through Amazon publishing. Feel free to read them, but please ask for permission before sharing them. :)

Thank you!

Sig

On Coming Out of Hiding… {and a GIVEAWAY}

fair trade friday final(Ok, so I wrote this yesterday. Words are still good a day later, right?) 😉

It’s been a long time since I’ve had the urge to just sit down and write.

Write with no plan, no agenda, no pressure of publishing something.

It feels really good.

I think part of it is that we’re hunkered down on a below-zero day with no school (I think this is day FIVE in 2015?) and there’s not a lot to do. We’ve built a fort and played games and it’s already the incredibly late hour of 8:30 in the morning. I finally talked my girl into finishing her breakfast inside the fort while watching a movie. (Don’t judge.)

And, in a strange way, I feel like I’m coming home when I sit down at the keyboard and tap out thoughts. I’m not sure where we’re going with all of it exactly, but I’m good with that. Sometimes coffee and a few free moments is all I need to just…be.

The truth is that I’ve hidden myself somewhat in the last month or so. I’ve made it to the blog on Mondays long enough to dash off a few thoughts and copy/paste a chapter of my Indonesia story. By the way, thank you for reading. Seriously, from the bottom of my heart. It brings tears to my eyes when someone tells me they’re enjoying my words. This process has given me a whole new kind of respect and admiration for authors who hand chunks of their heart on paper over to people to critique. Scary.

So it’s been easy, in this season, to hide and pretend a lot of things. So many of my dear friends know me more through computer screens than they do in real life…and so I can easily share what I want to and leave the rest buried somewhere, probably under a pile in my messy house. (Why is it that with a four year-old, my house is never clean?)

😉

I don’t necessarily want to hide…I just want to figure out when it’s ok to share and when it’s not. That’s something I’ve been trying to do for the last year. Pretty sure I’m still in the figuring-out mode.

But, in no particular order…a few things. An update. And maybe a giveaway because I love you all…just for being here and reading my really, really random ramblings. 😉

Maelie is growing up so fast. People warned me, and I always knew it in the back of my mind. But, seriously. I’ve got an almost-five year old on my hands, and it’s wonderful and heart-wrenching all at the same time. Seeing her become the person God intended is awesome…and knowing that the years are flying makes me cry. Right now, we’re just trying to soak up the sweet moments and beauty in the normal days. She’s wonderful. Well, most of the time. Let’s not forget that she IS four. 😉

Our hearts are finding a new normal. Not gonna lie, it’s been a rough year…yearish. Whatever. I’m not even sure what constitutes a year anymore. Our house is just a lot quieter now. It’s amazing the change and silence that two dogs to one brought. Oh, we miss our Andre boy and the way he loved winter and snow…and life. His doggie dish still sits in its place in the corner, and I sometimes wonder if it’s time to put it away. But it hasn’t been that time yet, and so we just leave it and smile at the memories when we see it. The tears are fewer now, and while that hurts, it’s right. He wouldn’t want us to cry forever.

And along with loss, her due date is coming up. Too soon, and it’s always on my mind. I find myself wishing for a hugely swollen belly and the hope that would have been here so soon. It’s hard when there are so many reminders of what would have been…and instead we still try to wrap our minds around what won’t ever be, at least here on earth. It’s a tough season and the tears really aren’t fewer right now. Not when it comes to the little one we ache for so much.

And yet there’s still joy…truthfully, it’s been tough to believe that God is good this year. It feels like His goodness has been wrapped in pain and we’re struggling to see purpose. The one thing we do still see is the little joys He brings…through a silly-sweet girl, a doggie cuddle, words from a friend, a moment that brings a smile. We’ve had to be intentional about finding joy…and maybe He wanted that for us.

Our family is doing ok. Even better than that, most days. Sometimes I think Tobin and I are at a better place than we’ve ever been…and I have to be careful saying that because I know we will always…every single day…have to work at this thing called marriage. It’s not easy, and neither is this journey of parenting. But it’s a tough kind of wonderful, and though life doesn’t look at all like we’d dreamed, we’re finding some pretty incredible beauty in what God has given.

Finding the gifts in today…that’s what we’re trying to do.

And I just feel like giving away a gift. Because I’m Mel, because it’s what I do, and because this is really, really beautiful. (I’m not sure why I’m not keeping it for myself, but I’m not.)

About a month ago, I ordered a box from Fair Trade Friday. I ordered the trial box (just a one-time), which you can find here…and then I loved it so much that I signed up for the monthly subscription (which is even cheaper with free shipping!), so you can bet that there will be more goodies on their way to me! For $35 + shipping, I got a bag of fun surprises. (Picture at the top of this post.) :)

The yellow and white key fob, I gave away to my dear friend. :) The little bracelet I kept for myself. The necklace…I have to confess, it was a little funky for me (which is surprising because I breathe funky) but I adore the beads and the colors, so I’m restringing it so I can wear it and be reminded of some amazing women around the world and how God is reshaping their lives and teaching them that they have value.

And the last thing? This gorgeous, gray hat with a flower…seriously, I adore it. But since I crochet, I also have A. LOT. OF. HATS. And so I’m going to give the hat away, along with a $10 Starbucks card, because it’s cold right now, and all I can think of is being warm and drinking coffee.

fair trade friday hat final
To enter…leave me a comment. Tell me something that brings you joy. I’ll pick a winner on Monday and email you. And that will be that…cute hat and a gift card on its way to you. (U.S. residents only, please.)

I hope this mass of words finds you all well…sending virtual hugs. Thanks for being here. :)

Sig

Lessons From Indonesia: On Being Brave

Bandung traffic finalOh.

The things I could write about today.

Of course, you know there will be an Indonesia story at the end of this…because, yes, it is Monday and there is coffee. (And that’s all I’m going to say about those things today…feel free to be shocked.) 😉

I was also down with…the flu. a bad cold. a headache. a fever. potentially all of it…all weekend and so coming back to my blog sort of feels like I’m crawling off the couch and back into humanity. And I’m starting to feel better and can actually talk now without squeaking.

Oy.

I really hate to be sick, but since I know y’all don’t want the details, I’ll leave it at that.

However, Valentine’s Day happened this weekend, and I found myself grateful beyond words that we celebrated last week with friends so I could fully enjoy my day(s) of crashing on the couch and trying to sleep and rest and diffuse this thing out of my system. It sort of worked. And to save the weekend, hubby made red velvet cookies yesterday, which I ate for breakfast this morning.

Life just feels a little better after those plus coffee.

So let’s get to Indonesia, shall we?

I’ve sort of been in homesick mode for the last week. I think part of that is because I’ve done so much reflecting and remembering…and I’ve got friends in Indo who know how to make me miss this place and these people with just a photo or two. Seriously. One of them posted a photo of the crazy that is motorbike parking in Indonesia…aka: a SEA. OF. MOTORBIKES. And I totally found myself wishing for my cute pink bike once again just so I could zoom it up and down Wisconsin Street once. Or fifty times.

However, my husband has forbidden me from having a Vespa here, my dearest motorbike wish, despite multiple moments of begging, therefore I’m sure this would not go over well.

But I do miss my bike in all of its cute, pink, I-can-drive-this-thing-in-flip-flops, glory. I kind of miss it a lot.

And so I bring you the saga…and it IS a saga…of how I learned to drive a bike. So let’s all shed a tear for Mel and her bike-missing that’s happening over coffee this morning.

And feel free to smile, too. Especially during the part when I run into a bush.

:)

As always, thanks for being here. (And if anyone would like to buy me a Vespa, you know where to find me.) :)

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28

We have to be braver than we think we can be, because God is constantly calling us to be more than we are.
Madeleine L’Engle

Anyone who lives in a big city knows that having some mode of transportation is necessary for sanity.

When we arrived in Bandung, our immediate needs were close enough that we could walk or take an angkut (minibus) down the hill. Therefore, for the first several weeks, we survived just fine without a car or motorbike or even a bicycle.

But once we had been in-country for a month or two, we had the itch to get out and explore more. Public transportation was doable, but not our favorite method, and the day a stranger sat on me on the angkut, I knew it was time for a motorbike!

I sent Tobin to pick it out because I was down with Bandung Belly, (that’s another story for another day…) and therefore, not going anywhere. I told him I had few preferences other than I did not want a manual transmission and that I’d give him bonus points for a unique color.

He did great and came home after ordering a semi-automatic (yay for multitasking!), orange (woo hoo!) bike.

I was thrilled!

And I was actually the first of us to drive it. It was delivered to our school a few days later, and I hopped on, started it up, and drove it right home from school…AND without killing anyone, though I did have to stop at an intersection to yield to a group of school children. I’m pretty sure they sprinted across the road in utter fear of the newbie bule who, most likely, had no business driving.

Over the next few days, we enjoyed our new-found freedom, even if it just meant having a quicker way to get to and from school. I loved driving that orange beauty, and my confidence grew quickly.

Maybe too quickly.

After we’d had the bike for two weeks or so, I hopped on it to drive myself to school. Tobin was going to walk there later, so I decided to go ahead and leave early to get some things done in my classroom before the day started.

I’m still not sure exactly what happened. The satpam (guard) saw me coming, and I just assumed he would open the gate wider than he did, mostly so I wouldn’t run over him. Well, he didn’t, and being the brave girl I was, I gunned it…right into a bush.

It was one of those humbling moments where I had one of two choices. Laughter or tears…thankfully I chose laughter, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt so completely uncoordinated (and stupid?) in my life.

And it took me almost a year to have the guts to try driving a bike again. For that year, I was content to ride around on the back of it while Tobin drove. Yeah, I was a chicken, but it was also good for me because I was able to learn the city…which streets went where and how to navigate the multiple one ways that seemed to dominate the art of transportation there. I probably learned Bandung better than Tobin did because I spent so much time watching, scoping out the good shopping and coffee places…

…and getting lost, because we did a lot of that, too. 😉

After that year, once I had gotten into the groove of Indonesian life, I knew it was time to try driving again. I needed the freedom to meet up with friends (and to go get coffee!) and so we went out one random day and bought me my own motorbike.

Oh. My. Goodness.

It was pink and soooooo cute. It was an automatic, meaning that I only had to gas and brake with my hands, which was better…less to distract me as I navigated the streets of Bandung on my cute little scooter, which I almost always drove while wearing flip flops.

I did well in the neighborhood around our house but knew I would eventually need to dig up the courage to actually drive in the city…among the cars and motorbikes and angkuts and buses and trucks and bicycles and carts and horses…you get the picture.

I was terrified.

It took every ounce of courage I had to venture out that day. I drove, my hubby followed me on the other bike, and we weaved our way in and out of traffic, going all the way to one of our favorite shopping centers and home again.

And I didn’t die.

Not only did I manage to stay alive, I also learned a very important lesson about bravery. It’s so easy to get caught up in the big picture of a situation and let fear take over, when, in reality, all I had to worry about while driving were the vehicles around me. The one rule of Indonesian driving was that I was responsible for what I could see in front of me. And that was it.

Once I understood that, it was much easier to drive the city…and I got even braver, making trips all over town on my own.

We sold our motorbikes once we bought a car and little M was on the way, and a part of me was sad. Those motorbikes were only things, but to me, they represented an important part of our lives as we learned to really live in Indonesia.

They were also great reminders of a lesson I learned in being willing to do things that seem more difficult than they really are.

Here’s to bravery and to doing more than we think we can.

Anyone for a Vespa ride? 😉

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The stories I’m sharing are about a place and people who are in my heart forever…I never want to paint a negative image of them or their amazing country. Therefore, I ask for your grace over each word and story. I pray that I share these words well.

The above is an excerpt from Lessons From Indonesia: On Life, Love, and Squatty Potties. All words and stories are my own and are copyrighted through Amazon publishing. Feel free to read them, but please ask for permission before sharing them. :)

Thank you!

Sig

Lessons From Indonesia: Oh, Rats!

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Well, here we are.

Another Monday.

I’m determined to like Mondays, I really am. I have to admit that coffee helps them as coffee does generally improve my outlook each morning. 😉 (And I’ve probably had too much of it today, too…hello, Starbucks flat white. Where have you been all my life?!)

Ahem.

It wasn’t my intention to only blog on Mondays, either. It seems like life has gotten in the way a little…or, rather, life has needed to be lived not in front of a computer screen. Some weeks are like that, and I’m determined to be ok with that and not apologize for it. (Though I think that’s why you get a rather random intro every week…it’s my way of still writing out my thoughts a little.) 😉

I went back and forth with what to share with y’all this week. My hubby commented last week that my story sounded different from what I usually post. I was like, huh? I guess the difference is that last week was more serious instead of funny. (I do have a good mix of stories from both sides, but that’s not something I thought about.) I don’t want to lose readers or bore you to tears by being intense and serious all the time…it’s just that life in Indonesia wasn’t all giant puddles and falling in squatty potties. (No, no, not really…but that would have made an awesome story!)

So I’ll try to mix up the laughter and the tears. Thanks for sticking with me. :)

Aw, this one. It’s fun. (I say that a lot, don’t I?) 😉 One of the things we just had to deal with in Indonesia was rats. They flocked to us…or packed to us or whatever it is that rats do.

They could smell our foreign blood, particularly this girl’s, and they came running through grass and gutters and garbage piles just so they could give me good stories to tell. Funny enough, those stories have become precious pieces of my heart…ones I’d love to go back and live all over again. I guess I really loved Indonesia, didn’t I?

Yes. I REALLY did. And I still do. :)

I bring you…a tale of a rat and two dogs. It’s a doozy.

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37

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13 (NIV)

Along with cockroaches and snakes, one of the creatures I never got used to?

Rats.

*shudder*

My first interactions with them were from a distance…I’d often see them hanging out in the gutters or ditches, usually when we were on the bike.

Once in a while, if I was walking outside at night, I might hear one nearby, but it was kind of one of those things you don’t stick around to process too long. At least I never did. 😉

One time when we were driving, one ran in front of us, so close that we almost hit it.

But we made it through our first year in Indonesia, keeping our interactions with them to a minimum, and that was just fine with me.

I can do this. I can live here, I’d say to myself.

But sometime during our second year in that house, we started to hear the pitter-patter of little feet on what we thought was the roof.

We had our jaga (guard), who watched our house each night, do some checking for us. He couldn’t find evidence of anything, but we continued to hear the noises, and they were starting to make us nervous.

Eventually we figured out that there were, indeed, rats…but they were running between the floors of our house. The way our house was built, there was space between the floors, giving them just enough room to run through and around and play rat tag…and totally creep us out.

We were also very aware of the fact that, with two big dogs, it was only a matter of time before there was a nasty interaction.

Andre was the first to have a go at it.

For weeks…and I do mean weeks…we watched our golden retriever camp out by a certain spot in our yard. After he’d done his business, he would lie down on his belly, nose outstretched toward a little hole/crack in one of our gutters. (Concrete gutters are built into the ground in most places in Indonesia to deal with the copious amounts of rain we’d get during rainy season.) We were curious about what was so interesting down there, but we could never see anything until the night he “got it.”

Andre was a quick killer…one chomp and that rat was toast with minimal bloodshed.

Sammy was our more aggressive golden, though…he’s the one who gives us most of the good stories. His first “kill” was just a few weeks after Andre’s, and he caught this one in the kitchen. It had been hiding behind the washing machine, and he cornered it, chomped it…

And even though he could have just stopped there, he chose not to…shaking his head while holding the now-dead rat and, thus, spraying blood all over the kitchen walls.

Yes, it was a lovely mess to clean up since I know you’re all wondering.

We also said silent prayers, following that kill, that Andre would be the rat killer among the two in the future.

As the years went by, we really tried not to stress over the rats or the fact that they were becoming an inevitable aspect of life in Indonesia. And we were doing well…or so I thought.

When we made the move to the new campus and set up a new house, rats became a problem again almost immediately…I was starting to wonder if they could just sniff out expatriate blood and know who would be the most freaked out. 😉

Our pembantu (house helper) was living with us for several days each week, and one night she, my hubby, and our two killer doggies went down in history with possibly the most memorable rat-kill the world (or at least Bandung) has ever known.

I was sitting in the living room on the couch, prepping for my lessons the next day, when I heard a strange sound coming from the laundry area. Since both of the dogs were in the room with me, I connected what we were most likely dealing with…and so did Sammy, who immediately sprinted in there to survey the scene.

My feet had literally just hit the floor when I saw it come flying through the kitchen and into our family room.

I wasted no time…I took a flying leap, laptop still in my hands, and sprinted to another piece of furniture in the next room.

For the next few minutes that rat used our family room as his own, personal, obstacle course and sprinted over and under and – what seemed like – through furniture, constantly chased and nosed by two dogs who wanted a piece of him.

Literally.

Hearing the commotion, our pembantu came out of her room, saw what was happening, and grabbed a broom. (Just one of the many, many reasons I loved this woman…I don’t think she was afraid of anything.)

She expressed her idea to contain the rat by opening the door to the garage…and the rat eventually ran in there, followed closely by the dogs, herself, and my husband. (I stayed outside and listened.) 😉

It was one of those seriously hilarious scenes, even though I couldn’t actually see what was going on. There was noise, clatter, and even things falling over as four beings were in hot pursuit of this terrifying beast. I could hear her smacking at it with a broom, the dogs growling…it was really hysterical. (And I was totally laughing while I listened to it all.)

And then…quiet.

Pin-drop quiet.

The door opened, and Andre…ratless…emerged. The look on his face expressed all I needed to know.

He was extremely proud of his kill. (The one that our awesome pembantu was now picking up with a plastic bag and disposing.)

We were just breathing silent prayers of thanks that Andre had been the one to get the rat and not Sammy since many of our belongings were stored in the garage.

And that particular rat kill was over.

Oh, there were more…and they continued up until we left the country because, well, the rats continued.

There have been many times when this story has come up in conversation with friends…it was one of those that we’ll never forget. Yeah, it’s a little (or a lot) yucky, but may it was the proof we needed…

Proof that God can always give us the strength to survive some pretty unpleasant situations.

And laugh about them…and even cherish the memories of them…later.

_____________________

The stories I’m sharing are about a place and people who are in my heart forever…I never want to paint a negative image of them or their amazing country. Therefore, I ask for your grace over each word and story. I pray that I share these words well.

The above is an excerpt from Lessons From Indonesia: On Life, Love, and Squatty Potties. All words and stories are my own and are copyrighted through Amazon publishing. Feel free to read them, but please ask for permission before sharing them. :) 

Thank you!

Sig

Lessons From Indonesia: Always There

sammy 600 final
Haha…I’m laughing to myself.

😀

SERIOUSLY.

The things I will do to put off posting on Mondays.

Oh, don’t misunderstand me, please…I want to share these stories.

But sometimes I have to get over myself first, and it takes random things like shoveling FEET of snow and wasting my brain on old NKOTB videos (thanks to my bloggy sister who posted that one) 😉 before I’m quite ready to go there.

The truth is that my Monday morning snark really has nothing to do with this chapter.

Right now I have a lot of words to choose from…of course, that will change as the weeks go by. Well, unless I write more chapters, which will probably happen…there are even a few more ideas saved in the notes section on my phone right now. :)

So I asked my hubby yesterday which one I should share…and he immediately said, Sammy.

He hasn’t read my book…in fact, there are only a handful of friends who have seen a few pieces of it and one friend who’s read the whole thing. Tobin is reading it right along with the rest of you, and yet, somehow he knew there would be a chapter about this.

He knows me and he knows the many things God used to shape me during our time in Indonesia. They weren’t always easy things…and this is definitely one of them that is still painful.

A slight disclaimer: this is oh-so-very-UNedited. And it made me laugh when I read the two scenarios that I managed to combine. But to me it makes sense. And even if it doesn’t to you, I hope the truth here will resonate.

It’s one I need today…and every day.

Thank you for being here. I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

_____________________

20

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.
Deuteronomy 31:8

I haven’t made it a secret that Indonesia was not easy.

It wasn’t something I dwelled on as we lived the day-to-day, but there were definitely moments when it became a blunt, in-my-face reminder.

There were moments of homesickness that made me hide under a blanket, curl up into a ball, cry every tear inside me…and eventually bring myself to the point of realizing that since I couldn’t will myself “home” that I would have to crawl out of my cave of despair and face life again.

I always came out, and life always went on, and it even included smiles.

I will never forget a certain day in Decemeber of 2005.

We’d been in the country less than five months…definitely still members in good standing of the newbie group.

But we also wanted to break out of that somewhat and learn to live in this place that was our home and would be just that until God gave us a definitive calling for something else.

And as part of our “breaking out?”

We hopped on the motorbike, determined to find a certain restaurant I had eaten at once.

One. Time.

One time, a little restaurant, in a city of about three million people.

We had a vague idea of where it was, but compounding that very vagueness was a maze of one-way streets. A drive that should have taken us fifteen minutes left us still on the bike ninety minutes later, the sun beating down, the dreaded farmer tan forming on my arms, and our spirits sinking.

Oh, and we had a form of bike butt that I can’t even talk about. Because, for some reason, I remember the pain, and it still makes me cringe.

It was one of the worst feelings to be so lost and have no clue where we were going. (Or, if we were going to get there. Ever.)

Anyway, more and more and more wrong turns later, and after almost two hours of driving around (with a gas stop for a very empty tank), we finally arrived at the restaurant. Ate lunch. Did a little shopping at the outlet store next to it. And left.

Feeling a euphoria mixed with some form of what-on-earth-just happened-here.

Frustration could have ruled the day, but we were both in the same place, I think.

We were finally, really living in this place…finding our independence.

And it felt spectacular.

But was that day easy? Absolutely not. As much as it is etched in my mind for eternity, it is not a day I want to repeat. Ever. (Well, I would repeat the lunch-and-shopping part of it…those were definitely aspects I always enjoyed.) :)

There were so many days and even weeks like that…times when we were left to figure things out or trust that it would all work out even when we had no clue how that might happen. Things always did work out, but sometimes not without a lot of confusion, frustration…and tears.

Perhaps one of the hardest things we experienced was so much like this first account…and yet so different.

We’d just begun our third year of Indonesia life, and we were no longer the new kids in town. We were moving into the mentor role and had just spent the week prior with new staff, helping them set up their houses.

It was a good place to be…and we were truly enjoying life and where God had placed us. We were also coming off of a summer spent in Indonesia…the one summer we chose not to return to the U.S. It had been a difficult two months but was not without blessings, either…including a trip to Bali to celebrate our 5th anniversary.

We’d also had some transparent talks as a couple about our relationship with God and how we both felt there were areas we could improve, specifically with spending more time in His Word.

For the previous two weeks we’d been intentionally rising early to do this in the morning rather than late at night as our eyelids began to droop.

We were being intentional…and we were growing.

That’s why we were blindsided…We. Just. Didn’t. See. It. Coming.

It was a Wednesday morning, and I had just sent my fourth graders to their specials class. I was attempting to dig through the stack of grading that had somehow miraculously appeared on my desk, just two weeks into the new school year, when my husband walked into my room.

I took one look at his face and knew instantly that something was very, very wrong.

Sammy’s gone.

Those words still bring tears to my eyes as I, once again, see the image in my mind of my husband standing in front of me, tears in his own eyes.

Though our pembantu (house helper) was at our house and it was broad daylight, someone had stolen our precious golden retriever without anyone seeing.

To say that the days that followed were horrible is an understatement. We couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t function…and yet all of our school responsibilities went on as expected. My students became accustomed to a teacher who did all the things asked of her but did so with red, swollen eyes and a spirit that seemed to be sinking lower with each passing minute.

We spent every free moment combing the city, blanketing it with fliers, and taking locals with us who would translate for us as we explained to pet stores and the two “stolen” dog markets that there was a big reward, and we would not call the police. We just wanted our dog back.

And in between those things and teaching, we would just try to breathe…somehow.

But it almost felt like helpless floundering.

We felt so lost.

I remember the Sunday that followed because I just couldn’t take it anymore.

The pain was too great, my heart was too heavy, and my God seemed too far away.

I found myself face-down to the floor, my forehead pressed against the ever-dusty tile, and wept to that God. The One Who had promised that He cared for His children, the One Who said He cared about the robins and sparrows, the One Who had promised He’d always walk by my side.

I don’t know how long I stayed in that position, but I know it was for a while because I had a pretty good mark on my forehead for a few days. And I can’t even tell you everything I said between my tears, but I do know that I told God, Sammy’s Yours. I want him back, but he’s Yours.

Two days later, Sammy was returned to us through a series of events that I know my Father orchestrated…but that one is deserving of its own chapter.

Again…that feeling of complete bliss but mixed with some wondering, too, of what on earth had just happened to us.

Having our precious doggy-boy returned to us was a day neither of us will ever forget, but is it a day or a week that we ever want to repeat?

I don’t think that question even bears the need for an answer.

And we’ve since revisited those emotions…emotions that can still be strong enough to bring tears. I’ve combed through the story in the past, searching for something deeper that God may be still trying to teach me, and I think I’ve finally found it in the midst of another season when I just don’t see.

It’s not earth-shattering, it’s not going to shock any of you.

But it is Truth.

There are times in life that are just hard. And while we cry and hurt and wonder, we must never, ever forget Him…He is always there, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

Today my Sammy is still his crazy, loud, wonderful, golden-retriever self…and he is a living reminder of this Truth.

_____________________

The stories I’m sharing are about a place and people who are in my heart forever…I never want to paint a negative image of them or their amazing country. Therefore, I ask for your grace over each word and story. I pray that I share these words well.

The above is an excerpt from Lessons From Indonesia: On Life, Love, and Squatty Potties. All words and stories are my own and are copyrighted through Amazon publishing. Feel free to read them, but please ask for permission before sharing them. :) 

Thank you!

Sig