Saturday, August 31, 2013

Ready to fall

My friends seem excited about autumn. They talk about the leaves changing color, the cooler days and nights, and the excitement of the fall and winter holidays. Bloggers like Martha Stewart, Pinterest, Apartment Therapy, and Houzz are posting "Ideas for Back to School," pumpkin recipes, and how to revamp decor for winter coziness.

I can hardly believe my ears. It is beyond my comprehension how 6+ months of cold, wet, and dark could be appealing, even in technicolor. Yet, here it comes. The days are shorter. It's dark before 8pm, and it's poured rain the last few days.

Seattle sunrise and sundown 2013
In spring, I'm among those thrilled by longer days and warmer weather. In summer, I'm happiest when it's a sunny 80oF (26.6oC) outside. Makes me think God knew what he was doing, calling us to a place where days are in the 80s and nights are in the high 60s.

Can't wait! Only one more Seattle winter to go.

Please help send us to Indonesia: click here for more information.

Read more:
*Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. Psalm 90:1-2 ESV

*Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord! Isaiah 2:5 ESV

*Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. Philippians 2:14-15

Moravian Prayer; Good and gracious Lord, when we walk in the darkness you show us the light. Help us to see and allow our light to shine in the world. You give us hope for the future, so let us share that hope with your people. Amen.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Just pretending. Or, liar liar.

Do you ever feel like your whole life is one big hideout? Like you're just pretending to be a real person?

I read this in the morning:

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit
of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, 
which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 
2 Corinthians 3:17-18  NIV

That got me thinking about what it would be like to live "unveiled." 

I found a few interesting studies about living untruthfully:
Are you comfortable telling the truth? With having others know everything about you?

My college roommate is one in a million. She decided a few years ago to be honest about everything. Spending time with her is refreshing.

Though she's very nice about it, she's willing to be known as herself, rather than hiding behind PC assumptions. She's not mean, but if she isn't interested in seeing something, she'll let you know. If she doesn't agree, she says so. If she wants to do one thing and not the other, eat a particular food and not another, go here but not there ... just ask her. She'll tell you.

"What do other people think about you being so honest?" I asked her.

"Some people like it and some don't," she admitted. "But I live to please God, who is Truth. This is who I am. Who God made me. And I am willing not to be liked when I tell the truth."

What liberty! How would my unveiled face look to my family? To my neighbor? My coworker? My friends at church? The teammates where I volunteer?

Could you live unveiled? Or do you feel forced to pretend?

In what ways have you told the truth or concealed it? What were the consequences?

Read more: 
*The Lord is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity. Psalm 98:9 NLT

*I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. Psalm 116:1-2 NIV

*Jesus said, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work." John 4:34 NLT

*See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 1 John 3:1-3 ESV

Anonymous poem found in her mom's old Bible, shared by friend Sylvia Stewart: 
I am not strong till Thou has clasped my hand,
I am not fit till by Thy side I stand,
I am not brave till Thou hast come to me;
Till Thou has bound me fast, I am not free.
Moravian Prayer: Lord, we wait for you. We know you are coming for us. We know that all things come from you. We are thankful for your presence surrounding us. Grant us wisdom to see your work in us today and every day. Amen.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Tucked into the forest

The rain wakes me. In the forest behind the house, the stream courses between its banks. It's noisy. I check the forecast: a day of thunderstorms and water ahead. Oh well, the weekend looks brighter.

Our son, his wife, and their two-year-old move in Saturday. We're grateful they will live in the house while we're away but it's a weird transition.

The house is a complete wreck: our rugs and boxes heap on the sofas and between; their cardboard boxes are under the pool table (formerly the DR) and their furniture is stacked in front of the guest closet. (I toss garbage bags full of IKEA slipcovers, linens, and tablecloths over it to empty the closet). The kitchen and bedrooms? Don't get me started. This place is a mess.

People are coming and going with buys on Craigslist. The front porch usually has 3-4 things leaning on the big planters, from folders of magazines to shoes to huge picture frames. Makes me glad we live in the woods and our neighbors can't see us.

I wonder how our lives resemble my house. Normally, we anticipate what the day will bring: church, family time, work, ministry, play, or commutes ... perhaps a stop at the local coffee shop.

However, when we're in transition, we disrupt the routines that help us function. We may neglect spiritual disciplines, leaving our inner life a muddle. We may withdraw from friendships, leaving us lonely and isolated. Maybe our careful words are replaced with irritation and quick-draw replies, fracturing frail relationships.

It's important to remember who - and Whose - we are. No matter what happens around us, the habits of grace like prayer, scripture reading, and fellowship with other believers keep us rooted. Our core identity wraps God's mercy around us: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Now the power of the resurrected Christ sustains us.

This week, our last alone, I've been overwhelmed by God's generosity.

A sentence in a design magazine caught my attention: "Can you imagine eating breakfast and looking out only at nature?" The editors were featuring a house bordering the woods. Yes, I CAN imagine it: we've had that luxury for 20 years.

"Do you have enough room for entertaining?" shouted another headline. Well, yes. We've had that, too. Storage? Plenty. Tranquil surroundings? Yup. Convenient to city life? Uh-huh. Privacy? Lots of that at the end of our 150 foot driveway.

These are just the tip of the iceberg of God's blessings. We've enjoyed peaceful surroundings, good health, good work, and good friends.

I am so grateful to God that we have transition times in which we reflect on His goodness and faithfulness. Our "thank-you"s anchor our little boats when the streams of change rush by and threaten to sweep us away.

Read more:
*The Lord will open for you his rich storehouse, the heavens, to give the rain of your land in its season and to bless all your undertakings. Deuteronomy 28:12 NLT

*Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble. Psalm 119:165 NLT

*Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live, but whoever pursues evil will die. Proverbs 11:19 NLT

*Your Father in heaven makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. Matthew 5:45 NIV
*I have a hope in God that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous. Acts 24:15 NLT

Moravian Prayer: We come to you, our Father. Lead us with your Spirit, always giving and forgiving. You surround us with your cathedral of nature. Joyfully we adore you -- fill us with the light of day! Shine upon us this day.

As your righteousness extends to us, help us extend righteousness to your children everywhere. At home, at work, and at play may we be clothed in you. We are your children, everywhere. Amen.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Shocking behavior!

Teachers grade papers. Some of us love reading student work. Some of us find it tedious.

I'm in both camps. Learning is fun so it's interesting to see what students come up with. But how I hate assigning grades to student work! If I taught the same courses over and over, it would be easy to come up with a metric and adjust it by student level and culture. But, because I've been teaching such a variety of things over the years, I keep having to reinvent the grading system to fit the course.

I've just gone through the batch of "Research Methodology" papers that arrived last week from my summer class in SE Asia. The students made great progress. They have done interesting research. Now I have to assign grades.

Sometimes we're tempted to rate our fellows, as though we were giving marks for personhood or accomplishments.
  • She gets an A+ for niceness, but a C for the way she dresses.
  • He gets a D for a messy apartment, but a B for generosity (he picked up the lion's share of the tab at the restaurant).
  • She get a C+ for effort but an B+ for friendliness.
  • He gets an A for accomplishments, but it comes so easily that he only gets a C for effort.
"Who are you to judge another person's servant?" Paul asked church members who were criticizing those around them. "God decides if he's pleased or not."

I'm surprised by the furor recently over CEO Marissa Mayer's Vogue fashion shoot and the  VMA performance of Miley Cyrus. I'm especially puzzled by Christian chatter: after all, what do we expect of another's servant?

Mayer was a good model for Vogue - they do "artsy" anti-expectation poses. I don't see the appropriateness but again, am not shocked by it. Mayer was modeling: haven't we seen similar poses on America's Top Model and other TV shows?

I agree that it's completely inappropriate for Cyrus to gyrate in public at a show that families watch and attend. But I'm not surprised. Attention-getting is for the insecure, and some will pursue attention by being outrageous.

(Back to the papers I'm grading) One of my students researched how Christians are perceived by their peers and non-Christians. He wanted to know if we portray the transforming power of the gospel, if we are like Jesus in our interactions of love, kindness, goodness, and morality.

He concluded that many of us act like Jesus makes no difference in our behavior and attitudes. We may attend our religious club (church) and consider ourselves members in good standing. Yet outside its walls, we live as though Christ has little to say to us. We lie, steal, cheat, and sleep around like the world does.

I think that's the real shocker. We ought to be completely, totally outraged. At ourselves.

Read more:
*O grant us help against the foe, for human help is worthless. Psalm 60:11 NLT

*Jesus said, "Young man, I say to you, rise!" The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Luke 7:14-15 NLT

*Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he
has sent.” John 6:26 NIV

Moravian Prayer: Eternal Creator, we are in humble awe of your grace and forgiveness. At the same time we thank you for also challenging us for personal betterment and improvement. Restore us and shine upon us as we bow before you. Amen.

*CS Lewis wrote a letter to Genia Goeliz, who had asked Lewis for a prayer in her struggle to believe: Lewis’s prayer for a daily increase in obedience and faith. (18 March 1952)

... Don’t bother at all about that question of a person being ‘made a Christian’ by baptism. It is only the usual trouble about words being used in more than one sense. Thus we might say a man ‘became a soldier’ the moment that he joined the army. But his instructors might say six months later ‘I think we have made a soldier of him’. Both usages are quite definable, only one wantsto know which is being used in a given sentence.

The Bible itself gives us one short prayer which is suitable for all who are struggling with the beliefs and doctrines. It is: ‘Lord I believe, help Thou my unbelief.’ Would something of this sort be any good?
     Almighty God, who art the Father of lights and who has promised by thy dear Son that all who do thy will shall know thy doctrine: [John 7:17] give me grace so to live that by daily obedience I daily increase in faith and in the understanding of thy Holy Word, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Life, more and less

Our friend Lindsey leaves for the Philippines today. We met her at Pre-Field Orientation (PFO) in June. We're praying that she's the same blessing as an elementary teacher as she's been to me already.

On our end, we continue to pare down (5 bags and a skateboard, picked up by the Big Blue Truck today), sell (Craigslist), and give away (Freecycle) our possessions. It's messy work.

Here's a before and after of painting the upcoming bathroom. Friends, kids, and W continue to sand drywall in hopes of painting the basement this weekend. W hopes to put up cabinets soon so I can shift things from our kitchen. The next householders need the space!

In process:
our bath-to-be

What a difference
white paint makes!
Timothy, Melissa, and Kinsey (2) move in this week with the rest of their stuff. A bunch is here: I'm typing and grading Singapore papers on their kitchen table. Their boxes are crammed under the pool table (in our former dining room), sit atop the hutch in the family room, and fill K's future bedroom. The guest room is getting emptier: we moved its futon to the LR; and their bed goes in tonight.

Almost healed: one of the
bruises from having the
futon crash on me last week
I'm almost at a stand-still mentally. Visual as I am, I break into a cold sweat with the clutter of W's 3'X3' book scanner on the window-seat, our Le Corbusier chaise halfway under T's wrought-iron-base table, and my suffering houseplants ... and that's just the kitchen nook, never mind the rest of the house.

Lord have mercy. Thanks for prayers and smiles, hugs, and other comfort from those of you who say, "We've been there. We know. It's not forever." Love ya!

In the middle of this process, I've had a lot of time to reflect on God's character and His priorities:
Just big enough: a little
fridge @$75 from CL
  • How God sees us. Each of us is valued and beloved by him. Those unlike us are JUST AS PRECIOUS to Him as we are. He wants a relationship with every one of us, drawing us close through the cross and the power of His resurrection.
  • How each person is made. Parts of us reflect God's nature, beauty, and goodness. Other parts need renewal and refinement by God's grace ... day by day, month by month, year by year.
  • How we interact with others. Some of us fear closeness and proximity. Some welcome it. Still others don't care one way or another: they easily flow in and out relationships.
  • How we perceive and process the world. I'm mostly visual so what I see impacts my inner life. As a musician, I process life by walking over to play piano in the LR corner. I'm missing my well-tuned, beautifully-maintained Bosendorfer already.
    Mama-mia! What a mess.
  • How we process change and transition. W and I are moving ahead differently. With a full-time job, he teaches during the day. He is occupied with the build-out in the evening, racking up concrete accomplishments at both places. My full-time job - including lots of breaks - includes ordering my surroundings. My biggest accomplishment seems to be learning patience, waiting for others to finish so I can move forward with tasks.
  • Routines are important. Our kids came over for lunch Sunday. The normal felt good, pulling out pots, plates, and food, cooking, and eating together. When life is in turmoil, it helps to sit back, relax, and enjoy the familiar.
  • God's ways are wonderful, complex, and never quite expected. Reading scripture and praying for others keeps my mind on Him. I'm really happy and anticipating the future, most of the time. (Yeah, I write to process the rest. Writing and making music keeps me semi-sane.)

Read more:
*Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Psalm 124:8 NLT

*You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts
in you. Isaiah 26:3 NLT

*Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” NLT

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:17-2 ESV

*At the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth. Philippians 2:10 NLT

Moravian Prayer: Father, help us, protect us, and comfort us. As we walk through your world serving your will we know that you are there with us. Thank you for always being by our side. We are humbled by your mighty word. Amen.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

After a week off

I'm back after nearly a week off. Missed you!

The fourposter bed, gone.
We start to sort the room. Ugh.

"Keep the main areas - kitchen, bathroom, and LR - clean, and the whole house looks clean," says my mom.

"Sorry, Mom. The house is a mess." There are boxes in the entry and piles of coats on the sofa. Our life is being sifted. The donation truck comes by again Tuesday, so that will help. Our bedroom turns into a sorting station.

Meanwhile, the basement is becoming the shell of a real home. The Sheetrock has its first and second mud coats. It takes a long time to dry with cement block walls. By week's end, W puts in heaters and a fan, which speeds up the drying process.
Our monstrous fabulous 4' Victorian lamp,
for sale.

  • Monday: coffee tables and end tables get picked up. I fill 4 huge garbage bags of clothing out of my closet. I start grading Singapore papers.
  • Tuesday: My coaching partner visits at the house; we have so much to talk about, we skip the coaching. My dad brings our nephew Lemuel to NU. I hand over a few sets of towels and bed linens. Yay. More stuff gone. The Blue Truck picks up the donation clothing. Also,  CL-ers buy two sets of stacking chairs. 
  • I decide to quit FB for the week. I'm definitely addicted to my computer and have to stay in touch with buyers, but I can live without social media, can't I?
  • Wednesday: We wake on a mattress on the floor; someone bought our bed Tuesday and T delivered it to them. It's weird lying 2' lower than our night tables.
    A table-full of
    redundant crystal
  • Thursday: Breakfast with credentialed female ministers @ 3rd Place Commons. Freecyclers take picture frames and magazines. For supper, W and I cycle the 5 miles I walked earlier to Lake Forest Park. Feels good to be moving.
  • In the evening, I crash down the front concrete stairs when the futon frame the guys carry outside topples onto me. Blue bruises. No breaks. Relieved
  • Friday: Washer and dryer are delivered. 
  • We meet with missionaries from Surabaya, Indonesia, John and Korie Taylor. They are very encouraging and answer a lot of questions about where we're headed. THANKS, you two! Looking forward to working together.
  • W recycles a huge TV that's clogged up the guest room for years. He empties the back door closet to create a mini-bedroom (5'X9') for Miss K, our granddaughter.
    Goodbye, old friends
  • I take the last china teacups, crystal, and Hummels out of the hutch and a young couple hauls it away. The dishes sit in forlorn heaps on the kitchen table. By next week, we'll have to clear away everything so a two-year-old explorer can't break it. Our kids move in next Saturday.
  • Saturday: T brings more of their stuff over. Freecyclers claim our bedding, picture frames, and magazines. W sells a disability ramp and I sell a closet full of art supplies. My office looks like a dump: everything from the upstairs guest room is being sorted there.
  • W and Jono continue mudding the drywall. I pack away crystal glasses and art supplies, and post more stuff on Craigslist.
  • We're now on the hunt for a small fridge, 14-18 cubic feet. (No handles please! The kitchen's too small for protrusions.)
  • How strange to crawl out of bed rather than climbing down: our fourposter bed was tall. The futon mattress is as low as it gets.
    Buying lunch with our little helpers
  • Sunday: we get to Creekside (love our church!) and the whole family comes over for lunch. I go a bit crazy cooking in my kitchen for the last Sunday. Thank you, Costco: 3 kinds of ravioli, kale salad, beet and jicama slaw, garlic bread, Alfredo sauce. oooooh - and dessert. We call K in TX as usual: it was her birthday last week. It's so good to hear her voice! and pray together, but we wish she was at the table. Miss K settles right into her nap with Elmo, her doggie, and a stuffed cat. She likes her new "room" (the guest closet) and sleeps for over 2 hours. Good girl!
 I'm astonished at how much furniture flew out our doors in the last weeks. I'd expect the home to be emptier. Except for waking up 8" from the floor, the house still feels full. T and M are gradually transferring their things to our place, refilling emptied rooms.

I'll decide what we're keeping, packing, and giving away once the basement cabinets are in. If something doesn't fit, we can't keep it, whether dishes, furniture, rugs, or clothing. Once we're moved, I'll pack up the rest of the house and the kids can take over.

The kitchen takes shape
Our sale funds buy basement appliances, paint, and building supplies. Two workers from our friend's company come and go each morning. Appliances and cupboards are scattered between a table holding tools. The dust causes me to cough when I view the progress downstairs each evening. A good friend brings by a propane construction heater. W paints the kitchen area and we're happy with those clear warm white walls and floor.

I'm trying not to get impatient, but it will take 3X longer to get things packed up with a 2-year-old helping. I have one more week of grace, but it's a week in which I can't move things any way but out. And so out things go! The less we keep the better.

I wonder about the things we attach ourselves to. Though I've enjoyed the abundance, I've begun to look forward to a pared-down life. The new season is rushing in.

Read more:
*We ponder your steadfast love, O God, in the midst of your temple. Psalm 48:9 NLT

*Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another. Hebrews 10:24-25 NLT

Moravian Prayer: Oh God, to your temple we come. Where we are, you are. Let us come together in example and encouragement always in your name and following your will. Let our hearts show your Christian love, today and always. Amen.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Learning a language online

"I think I've forgotten everything." I flip through the new Indonesian lessons. Everything looks the same. I can still pick out a few words. But after 3 weeks off, the meanings have faded from words I used to recognize. Ugh.

I have a few online language programs, but one in particular makes more sense. is my most-used option:
  • It comes to my inbox with a word a day.
  • Each day's vocabulary is expanded in sentences and phrases. I click through the sentences to see how many other words I recognize. How are prefixes and suffixes added to change meaning?
  • It both shows the words and has a listening option. I sure wouldn't say the familiar alphabet that way without audio help.
I bought the expanded version of the program but with the family reunion, packing up, and so many people coming through the doors, I found myself needing escape rather than information. On this Monday, it's back to work. Here's hoping things settle down in coming weeks; the calendar is filling up and I have lots of prep for appointments.

If you're interested in learning a language, find free programs here:
  • LiveMocha offers visual, audio, and social interactions. You'll be rated by native speakers and you get to help others learn your language.
  • Open Culture assembles lists of free language programs. Choose from 40 languages.
  • Babbel is a European program that relies on words and voice to guide your options.
 Have fun!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Flux and flow

A quick respite after moving furniture
Two sons came over this morning. They hefted the massage recliner to the front porch. Then they helped W muscle a 200-lb literature sorter to the entry where Craigslist buyers picked them up. The futon from the upstairs guest room? It's joined two already in the living room. Of course, the coffee table and Corbusier lounger had to be moved into the kitchen to make that happen. Later in the day, a lady buys the 8 French wheat-sheaf dining chairs.

Yup, my house is in turmoil. Stuff is everywhere. There's not a room that's "normal" and I'm starting to lose track of what's where. I had a good cry yesterday while culling my art supplies from a closet. (In future, our granddaughter's bedroom.) So I'm good to go for another coupla days.

Fuller and fuller ...
the family room morphs
and the French chairs disappear
I'm grateful for our kids' help. K, who's moved many times, comforts me over the phone. The boys heave and haul;  R helped me sort and scan hundreds of files.

M is packing up her own house to move over. T's starting to bring their stuff over and push it into recently vacated corners. Let us know if you need anything!

Read more:

*And Jerusalem shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear of all the good that I do for them. Jeremiah 33:9 NLT

*See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me. Malachi 3:1 NLT

*John the baptizer said, "One who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals." Luke 3:16 NLT

*Exalted to the right hand of God, Christ has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. Acts 2:33 (NIV)Moravian Prayer: Holy God, you sent your son to save us. You show us light where there is darkness. Move in our midst so we can see you, feel you, and hear you. Walk with us and be with us as we go forth in Jesus' name.  

God of goodness and grace, let us be your messengers of peace. Send us forth into the world in your name knowing that your presence is with us. Guide us as we prepare the way of the Lord. Amen.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Watch the attitude!

Montana: sky country
I felt angry. Frustrated. Began to shut down inside to control the volcano threatening to erupt.

"You okay?" W was tip-toeing around me, loading the last things into the car for the trip home from the cabin. "You seem kind of quiet."

"I'm upset. For years, I've lived in a building project, looking forward to spending time relaxing." I tried to keep my voice on an even keel, but the steam was starting to boil.

Anger used to be my go-to emotion. I was a pepper-shaker of a kid with a flash temper. I learned to control my rage by the time I was in my teens. But every few months, it would bubble up inside me, trapping my mind in a vicious spiral. Some little thing would set off an explosion. When I'd vent my frustration on my husband, he wondered, "Where did that come from?"

I haven't been really angry for a while. The pattern broke when I acknowledged my own failures before God and named the people I hadn't forgiven, one by one. I remember being shocked at what I was holding on to. Hurts. Grievances. Expectations.

And I remember the relief of letting that go, admitting that no one owed me goodness the way I owed God love and obedience. He'd wiped my slate clean. Now I could do the same for others.

My heart sang for days after that encounter with the cross of Christ. Forgiven. Free.

But I was mad Tuesday as we locked the cabin door and drove off.

My favorite spot this summer:
watching peaceful glacier run-off
W's crafting had been a joyful relaxation for him each summer. He likes to do things himself so he didn't want me building alongside.

I watched. Waited. Got impatient at the pace and incremental progress. Blocked my feelings until I didn't care anymore if it ever got done. I stayed home a few summers while I finished my studies.

Then last year, I spent an extra month at the cabin on my own, closing the doors of the rooms that were undone, mentally blocking out the unfinished parts while I recovered from cramming through a dissertation. God knew I needed the quiet space.

This year, W built the beds in the bunk rooms. The light fixtures went up. The mattresses and pillows were put in place; I collected enough sheets, sleeping bags, and blankets for 20 people. (Thanks Mom!) I finally got to wallpaper the back entry with maps, hung a few funny sayings on the wall, and moved furniture into place. It looked great and worked just as designed. Made me happy!

We were home-away-from-home. Except that we had to clean up and leave a day after hosting a big group. There was no time to relax.

Wide open roads and sky
"Waaa. waaa. Girl, you have a choice to make." I could hear a mocking echo in my head as the car pulled away. "Look around you."

The trees pumped oxygen into the clear Montana sky, blue-green mountains feathered with evergreens on every horizon. Stunning. We'd enjoyed these surroundings for 19 years, not to mention making wonderful friends who made each summer a special retreat.

"What will you choose? To hold the resentment? To fill your soul with joy at the beauty I've given you?" God was hemming me between options. Thankfulness? Gratitude? Or my old acquaintance, anger?

I was ticked enough to think about it. To consider reengaging the comfort of my destructive habits.

Then W pulled up to a cabin to say goodbye to our friends. They've helped us, shared meals, and been an integral part of our life in Montana. The fellow and W worked together on our cabin and their computer, talking about faith and God and life.

"You're leaving already?" the wife opened the door. Four other women were getting up from the living room sofa. "We have a prayer meeting every Tuesday," she said. "Come in."

Her husband walked in the door as we were hugging and saying goodbye. They extended their hands in a prayer circle and prayed over us. Blessed us. Asked God to provide the finances and prayer supporters for our mission. I could hardly hold back my tears.

Flowers for the cabin
I felt God chuckling as we got into the car to leave. "You didn't really think I was going to let you stew on the way home, did you?" Apparently he cares for W (and me!) too much for that.

My heart lifted. I felt grateful for our years at camp. The gravel crunched under the tires, the clean air washed through my lungs, and the landscape began to stream by the windows. We'd had a gift from God for nearly two decades. Who could complain?

"How are you feeling?" I asked W a few times on the way home. He admitted he was sad to leave, as I was.

We had a great trip home. Relaxed. Prepared for reentry: the university faculty meets this week to start up the academic year. I'm rearranging life for the new season, checking off appointments in the coming week.

For the first time we can remember, there was no smog cloud and no stench of pollution when we came over Snoqualmie Pass and dropped down toward Seattle. It had rained the night before and the air was clear. Another gift - we dread that return to city smells and haze.

God is good. And we are His. I'm happy that He loves us too much to let us wallow in sin and its consequences. That He renews our strength to soar like the eagles. That His beauty fills the world and refreshes my soul.

It's all in the attitude. What are you choosing to focus on in your own circumstances today?

Read more:
*Seek good and not evil, that you may live. Amos 5:14 NLT

*Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. Romans 12:17 NLT

Moravian Prayer: Almighty God, help us to seek the right path. We delight in your goodness and seek to follow you. We are your children, give us your peace. May we be noble in your sight and walk in your ways. Amen.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Die a thousand deaths for a new beginning

Wind turbines on the way home.
Life is about movement.
"You know the stuff we were going to bring down here?" I look at W as we gaze around the basement. "We'll be able to take maybe a quarter of that." Bare Sheetrock covers most of the walls and some of the ceilings. Fiberglass insulation hangs in the gaps between floors.

W and I agree that paring down is the name of the game. We don't want to cram the new space with stuff. Only necessities, culled from 10 rooms of this house, can fit where we'll live - a little kitchenette, dining area, living-sleeping quarters, 3/4 bathroom, and two small offices. It's more than many people have, and we are thankful for it. But the sheer volume of what we're accustomed to using is overwhelming.

A river-view on the way home.
The more things change, the
more they stay the same.
"We only use a fraction of our things," says conventional wisdom. I must not fit the standard profile. I love variety and rotate through clothing and household things each year. I'll be reaching for a lot of vanished items after we downsize.

We have lots of company. Yup, I use my huge turkey roaster three times a year. The raclette maker at least twice. The huge punch bowl and fondue pot? About the same, but for different events.

In the new space, I probably won't have an oven - just two induction burners. Who needs that roaster? Who will use the china that's we've pulled out for different occasions? The tablecloths? The guest beds and their linens? The extra bottles of favorite toiletries? The spare electronics? Not us.

Out they go. I hate doing garage sales; we don't have the time or energy to waste on pricing and negotiations. Need anything? Let us know!

Fun and hijinks at the
family reunion last week
I'm thinking about a "Free or Donate Garage Sale" to get rid of things. We could just put things in the driveway. Mark a few larger items with a suggested price. Set a donation box at the side of a table for those who want to contribute to our mission. For those who'd rather not donate, take things away for free! What's left at the end of the weekend goes to GoodWill or the SallyAnn. It may come to that.

On other fronts, W and I were both sad to leave our cabin in Montana yesterday. W insists we'll be back. With a limited annual trek to renew our visas, will our time be spent there? I doubt it. I waited 15 years after drawing up the plan to "almost finished" this year. The front door needs painting and there are a few minor projects ... but the cabin is basically done now. Just in time to leave it. The kids may enjoy it in future years, but we'll be gone.

The boring cabin hallway is now
a map room. Thanks,
National Geographic mag!
Those of you who have left behind family and friends know the thousand deaths of moving. We leave the old neighborhood. We lose the comforts of knowing where things are in the house. We upset routines and regular appointments. Leave trusted friendships.

"We've been there. We know." Missionaries and pastors who have been through this grieving process are encouraging us. "There's something new worth reaching for and leaving the past behind."

I hope so. Coming home yesterday, I felt the burden of downsizing, sharing the house, and sloughing off the past. No more faculty Christmas dinners. No more impromptu hospitality on the scale we're used to. "C'mon, have it at our place!" we used to say when people needed a venue. No more.

W screws in the last light
fixture at the cabin

Yet under it all is the relief that our temporary space is small and limited. After we've thrown out the last "it-was-good" item, life will pare down into new rhythms and opportunities. I'm quite looking forward to that.

Read more:
*As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time on and for evermore. Psalm 125:2 NLT

*For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. Colossians 1:13-14 NLT

*May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 NLT

Moravian Prayer: Lord, our God, surround us. Renew our bodies, souls, and spirits in your name. Help us to love one another. All glory, thanks, and praise through Christ our Lord who we carry in our hearts until your perfect day. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Friendly family and friendly fire

Roadside beauty
Family reunions can be heaven or hell. "There's continual drama when my family meets," someone told me this week. "We could never be together for nearly a week."

In contrast, we Dahers (my dad's family) like each other - and we have peacemakers in every family group. Our clan is outspoken, opinionated, and flexible. We don't care much what others think of our ideas if we think they're good ones.

"I know what I'm doing, but feel free to convince me otherwise," my dad used to say. "I'm open."

Coming or going
in the cabin?
Even the Jefferson
staircase is non-traditional
That's true - if you have a better idea, let a Daher know; it's not done until it's over. I can't count how many times over the years that I've heard a family member say, "I don't care what s/he thinks. I'm doing it this way." And off they go to plan, prep, or accomplish what needs to be done ... in their own way.

So when my dear sis-in-law asked, a week ago, "What are we doing when we get there?" I just laughed.

"We'll see. You know the Dahers. They hate being micromanaged!" I replied. "We'll set a loose schedule, assign meal cooking and cleanup, and figure it out as we go." I had a very rough count of who was coming.

It helps that each household is hospitable and accustomed to hosting big groups. There's a warm welcome at anyone's doorstep, so this was business as usual. Everyone pitched in to serve fantastic meals and left the kitchen spotless afterwards.

Boys' bunkroom, ready for occupancy
We're cool with the assumption that each will "do our own thinking." We grow up that way from childhood: every member of the tribe is creative and active, eccentric and smart in his/her own field. From aunts and uncles to young cousins, we become accomplished at a lot of stuff by trying new things. Few of us follow traditional careers to traditional success. So when plans change, we adapt and no one gets a bee in their bonnet. (Or the bee has a short buzz.)

To accommodate that flex, we:
  • posted a 2-hour breakfast window for early and late risers. For lunch, we enjoyed the fantastic surroundings (Kallispell, Bigfork, Whitefish, and - 9 miles away - Glacier National Park). At supper, we met again to feast and tell stories
  • thought up evening programs on the spot
    • Thursday, we celebrated my parents' 60th anniversary
    • Friday, we played "Truth or Daher" (best family memories or bucket list)
    • Saturday, we shared what each has recently done and what we're going to be doing
    • Sunday was Dad's 81st birthday
  • came and went, tried things we hadn't done before, hiked the park, swam the lakes, shopped the tourist towns, and went to the gun range
  • spent hours and hours visiting
  • got the clan together after one breakfast for our 19th "Historic Point" photo at the side of the highway. We've never had such a huge group for our annual tradition. We got lots of astonished honks and waves from passing motorists and motorcyclists. (There's a historic point nearby: we take a picture of us lined up next to the road sign, pointing in whatever direction suits us.)
  • had more (and in 2 cases, less) guests and dogs than planned. We felt privileged and happy to hug every one who showed up
  • saved money by cancelling a few hotel rooms for cabin-sharing
  • enjoyed the most incredible huckleberry pies and ice cream on a night with enough dessert. (Is there ever enough dessert). Thanks, Rita.
  • etc. My guestbook is full of new memories, recorded by young and old and those between

Kids' hangout, the family room's chaos
gets tidied at night
This first-ever family reunion (outside of well-attended weddings and funerals) was in Hungry Horse, MT. My friends at home prayed that it would be peaceful, fun, and glorifying to God. It was.

I wasn't sure how we would accommodate the extended family. Our cabin sleeps 20 (8 bunks, 5 queen beds/futons, and 2 spare camping cots.) A friend rented us their 4 bdrm cabin for a "steal-of-a-deal," honoring years of friendship and W's computer help. A few families stayed in nearby hotels.

There was plenty of room upstairs and down. God blessed us with great weather, so the 12-person picnic table outside - plus the neighbor's donated round table - complemented the table and sofas inside.

Cabin, sweet cabin, we'll miss you
"Bye! See you again!" the family waves as their car begins the trek to Edmonton. Another group heads for Winnipeg. Our Seattlites get stuck in hours of grid-lock traffic on Snoqualmie Pass. Daughter Kirsten and poodle Zoe fly to home to Austin.

W and I are left with the quiet that follows a lively storm of conversation, good food, and shared memories.

Sunday evening, we invite about 20 friends from the campground over. We share the thrill of this new adventure facing us - living in Indonesia after next June. They pray over us and promise to continue to continue praying. Several commit to support us with finances. Above all, in that devout company, the friendly Holy Spirit ignites our hearts with His fire.

By tonight, the cabin will be cleaned up and packed up for the winter. We may not be back, after this year when we finished building. Perhaps the whole purpose of this long building process has been the weekend reunion, sharing our calling, and years of making friends who are mature in the faith.

Whatever, we thank God for his provisions of people and resources. Thanks, girlfriends, for your prayers.

Read more:
*The Lord answered Job, "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? and said to the sea, 'Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stopped'?" Job 38:4,11 NLT 

*It shall be one day which is known to the Lord -- neither day nor night. But at evening time it shall happen that it will be light. Zechariah 14:7 NKJV

*(Jesus said,) “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

*In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. John 1:1, 3 NLT

*The night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Romans 13:12 NLT

Moravian Prayer: O Holy Spirit, you are our light during the day and at night. We thank you for this day. Help us to make the most of it. Help us to let our light shine so that others see you through us in work and at play.

Everlasting God, you extend your righteous hand. Let us feel your touch. You inspire and encourage us in the face of our troubles. Help us to know all strength comes through you. We worship and adore you. Amen.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A 2-church Sunday morning and river views

We're late for one service Sunday and early for another.

At 9:10, we're at an established church, Kallispell Christian Center. We shake 6 people's hands coming in the door, a friendly welcome. The aisle seats are full, so we crawl over someone's knees to reach a middle seat in the last row.

They sing the song that's been ringing through my head for the past weeks. "When morning breaks and the new day's dawning ... bless The Lord, oh my soul..." I've heard that from Singapore to Indonesia to Seattle to Montana. Maybe it's the new "As the Deer" chorus for this generation? Love it, just like everyone else.

Zentangle 5
I pull out my sketchpad as the sermon starts. Even as a young child, I would keep my hands busy with a pen to be able to focus on the sermon. My mind settles, and God speaks to me through Kevin's words.

Kevin Geer, a former leader of Children's Ministry in our region, is the team leader at KCC. His new series is rooted in the Golden Rule, love others like we want to be loved (Matthew 7:12).  Kevin's transparent and humorous delivery keeps even the most staid pew-sitters chuckling and nodding along. It's an appropriate message for our upcoming family reunion. "Treat others like we want to be treated."

The second church is a branch campus model, Fresh Life Church. We arrive early at the live campus at The Liberty in downtown Kallispell. People mill about, going in and out of the theatre. A few of us old-timers slip into the foyer between children and young families. No one says hi as we head up the stairs to the balcony. We sit there by ourselves for the first 15 minutes, music pounding from the stage. Then a small herd of about 20 others spread out around us.

The sermon series is called Microphone: it's always on. Today's talk is based on Psalm 128. "The walls of a home are the microphone others see and hear. Each of us has a platform," says Pastor Levi Lusko, and marriage and the family are the center stage. He quotes scripture and speaks of the practical implications of finding a spouse and living out the good news in the greater community. "Love Jesus like crazy and live His life out desperately."

His language is colloquial. "We're all in the process of losing our good looks. ... Sorry to tell you this, but we're getting uglier right now," he says, speaking of the attrition of beauty. "Good looks" are a bad reason for choosing a partner. "Both partners occupy servant roles (Ephesians 5:12). Obey God no matter what the other person does... Christ didn't wait for us to become lovable. He died to make us lovable."

Swan River on a Sunday afternoon
He's a good speaker with high energy, and conservative in his theology. He uses pictures to describe his ideas. Murmurs of agreement drift up from the full main floor. We get three friendly nods and handshakes as we leave.

The cool thing about Church is that God makes Hi,self known in many ways. We drive to Bigfork in the afternoon. They're hosting an annual arts and crafts show. Between the morning services, the stunning scenery, and human creativity, God overwhelms us with Presence.

We spend the afternoon NOT working, driving through beautiful countryside and enjoying Bigfork. Their arts and crafts festival is excellent. We're not buying anything though; our house is being down-sized not upgraded. The pictures were snapped along the way.

Swan River shoreline: froth from the dam
We get bad news Sunday night. My youngest brother Will (50) spills off his mountain bike and breaks his finger, wrist, collarbone, and 4 ribs. He also punctures a lung. (Two of our boys had collapsed lungs. Not a happy recovery; usually the docs scrape the chest wall so the lung sticks to it and stays open in future.)

Not only will he not be at the family reunion this week, but Will has to stay in hospital while they reassemble him. We'll miss him! Luckily he's in Canada not the US: he won't use up his retirement funds on medical bills.

Shallow waters churn over the riverbed
My folks have set off from our place. They'll be our first arrivals tonight, after picking up Kirsten on a detour through Seattle. K flies home from MT on Monday. She has so much stuff that they can't bring any of the things we left behind. We'll rehome them in Seattle, with all the rest of our stuff.

I amazed by the water that flow swiftly over the Montana riverbeds. Ice-cold from glacier runoff, drop after drop speeds by, bounded only by riverbanks.

Human life is similar: we may be individuals, but our lives combine in history. If we live well, we contribute to the river of humanity. But when we're gone, few people remember our names or accomplishments. Only God keeps track. Pleasing him rather than trying to impress others seems a worthy way to live!

Read more:
*Thus says the Lord, "How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me?" Exodus 10:3 NLT

*All the nations you have made shall come and bow down before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. Psalm 86:9 NLT

*That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 NLT

*All who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted. Luke 18:14 NLT

*Paul wrote: We may proclaim the good news in lands beyond you. 2 Corinthians 10:16 NLT

Moravian Prayer: Father we need you. We need you with us, beside us, and in front of us. We thank you for your guidance, your wisdom, and your direction. Help us in faith to always follow your lead.

Good and gracious Lord, we are in awe of your majesty! Your power combined with your compassion and forgiveness makes us want to proclaim your good news. Help us share your wonders with others. Amen.