Monday, September 30, 2013

Authentic service

On my walk this morning: a whirl
When we considered moving downstairs, I had just started to shed the past. Furnishings, linens, and appliances were stacked in the living room.

I felt overwhelmed by the task ahead (and that was just the shift from past into the present). The transition didn't even begin to encompass the shift across cultures that we've been called to!

I craved white simplicity. Minimalism. In my head, the basement had 2 futons, a dresser, a few pictures, a kitchen table, and lots of empty space.

After a month of paring down, I can almost visualize what's moving with us. My mind has drawn up the space, arranged and rearranged the layout, and settled on color and comfort. In other words, it's going to look a lot like where we've been ... with tweaks.

Lisa of Love Squared Designs
I met Lisa McKenney at a conference this weekend. She said that when she asked God how she could serve, He asked, "What's in your hands?"

She looked. Pondered. And opened her heart and art to blessings beyond her expectations.

God gave Lisa artistic designs that pass along the hopeful abundance of the life of faith. Her jewelry is at Love Squared Designs. She's supported her family and donated thousands of dollars to worthy projects.

Do you ever feel afraid because of the enormity of what God's asking you to do? Hearing the story of God's calling and favor on Lisa settled my own heart.

What's in your hands? Who are you already? And what do you love? Maybe that's what God's given, intending to blow you "out of the water" with the enormity of HIS dreams for YOU.

My longing for order and quiet (emptiness) has morphed to viewing the new space as a joyful celebration of what's coming. Where are you on your shift into the future and God's hopeful future?

"Drench my soul as grace and mercy unfold, 
I hunger and thirst." (Hillsongs: I Surrender)

Read more:
*Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God. Joshua 23:11 NLT

*And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ... Philippians 1:9-10 NLT

*While the promise of entering his rest is still open, let us take care that none of you should seem to have failed to reach it. Hebrews 4:1 NLT

Moravian Prayer: Savior, we love you simply because of who you are and that love compels us to spread your good news to the world. Increase our love for you so we may love and bring the entire world into relationship with you. Amen.

 From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III, on doubt: As far as you (and I) are concerned I have no doubt that the fear you mention is simply a temptation of the devil, an effort to keep us away from God by despair. It is often the devil working through some defect in our health, and in extreme cases it needs a medical as well as a spiritual cure. So don’t listen to these fears and doubts any more than you would to any obviously impure or uncharitable thoughts. . . . Of course, like other evil temptations, they will not be silenced at once. You will think you have got rid of them and then they will come back again—and again. But, with all our temptations of all sorts, we must just endure this. Keep on, do your duty, say your prayers, make your communions, and take no notice of the tempter. He goes away in the end. Remember I John iii, 20 “If ( = though) our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart.” 

Friday, September 27, 2013

A match made in ...

Pam Nolte as the matchmaker
The Broadway hit, The Matchmaker by Thornton Wilder, tells the story of a woman determined to win the prize of a rich husband for herself, though she pretends to have the interests of others in mind. It's the hilarious tale of marrying up (finding a mate with money), despite the conventions of culture and expectations of society.

The Taproot Theatre production stars Pam Nolte as the matchmaker; her hapless target is the rich businessman Horace Vandergelder, convincingly played by Robert Gallaher. Directed by Scott Nolte, the play had the audience in stitches. I blinked in amazement a few times at the twists and turns of the plot as the cast frolicked around the simple stage. Once again, the set designers provided just enough furnishings to support the lively acting.

Brad Walker as Barnaby Tucker
I have to say that the spinster aunt, played by Kim Morris, stole the show and upped the energy with her rousing performance in the production last weekend. Our other favorites were the young apprentices, played by Robert Hines and Brad Walker.

The play whirls by with lots of energy: you're never far from the action inside the intimate space of Taproot! I was so engrossed that I was surprised by the intermission. Afterwards on the sidewalk, people continued buzzing and chuckling over the antics of the characters.

Asha Stichter and Natalie Moe watch the action.
This feel-good play is the perfect entertainment after a stressful work-week. I recommend it for girlfriends on a night out, date night for couples, or as a fun family activity with teens and older. College students will easily identify with the break-from-constraints hijinks of the young characters, too. Come prepared to laugh aloud, relax, and walk away feeling good.

Photos are by Erik Stuhaug. Media tickets were provided by Taproot. The show runs until October 19 | For tickets call 206.781.9707 or click here.

A fairly Fraggle frazzle

Remember the Fraggles of Fraggle Rock? They lived in an underground cave. Their recreation was working and their work was playing. I feel like we've had a Fraggle week.

We got home last evening after 4 days in Eastern Washington. "I'd love to live here," W said after we spent our first day with pastors and church leaders.

We taught, learned, and listened to stories of grace and God's favor. We shared our excitement and hopes, scheduled future services, and exchanged possibilities for partnership over lunches and suppers. We pulled our bikes out of the car to cycle a bike trail along the river.

I came home 3 lbs heavier and full of things to pray about. I'm amazed at how God works in each town and city. I'm blown away by the creative ideas of engagement and ministry, too.

In the process of speeding up our move, we hired help. And had our first awful "oops!" A misunderstanding in communication, W's teaching schedule (out of touch for a key conversation), and the resulting snap decisions have resulted in a terrible room layout. We could tear the whole thing out and redo it ... but in allocating resources and time, we've decided to live with it. Before it's done, we're already unhappy with it. It works, but barely. And our space is no longer compliant for full disability access. Ugh.

I feel like a Fraggle: our work felt like play, with wonderful connections this week; but our play (lightening the load by shifting it elsewhere) has tired us out.

"We'll have an extra picture wall," I tell myself, looking at the wall that rises to the ceiling where a seat was planned. "A place to hang art!" When I wake at night, trying to shift my thinking past the misdirection, I can't quite make it work yet. But I'm hopeful. We do have a lot of art.

What ways have you changed your outlook to embrace a mistake as something positive?

Read more:
*With your mouth you have promised and with your hand you have fulfilled it -- as it is today. 1 Kings 8:24 NIV

*But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things
will be added to you. Matthew 6:33 NLT

*Paul said, "We bring you the good news that what God promised to our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising Jesus." Acts 12:32-33 NEV

Moravian Prayer: Lord God, thank you for your great faithfulness and for always fulfilling your promises to us. Give us the patience to wait for your timing in all things and the gift of faith to keep us eagerly waiting. Amen.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Life as collage

One of our assignments last weekend was to create a visual representing our personalities and call to missions. With a few magazines and a sheet of paper, the speaker told us to "go to town." W took quick pictures with his IPhone when we were done. Sorry about the poor quality (glare from overhead lights). You'll have an idea, regardless.

W neatly cut out pictures and taped them within the borders of the sheet. He left some white edges. Here's his collage (explanation below).

W views his ministry as a shared meal (center), eating together in God's Word. Many people in Bandung wait to learn about Good News (lower left). He's a teacher (lower right). The top picture shows prayers of gratitude. His caption is our invitation to you: "Join Our Story."

My collage was more spontaneous. I tore pages out of the magazines and ripped them to size as the project developed. My images spilled over the sides of the page and overlapped each other. (Explanation below.)

I'm a connector, shown by the plugs. We're going to interact with learners (student bus in the middle) and need high energy as we gear up to go (the red truck; the horse rider). We expect to be covered by the Word and prayer (umbrella, lower). We'll be planting an International Service with others on the team (lower left) in a place that is barren of the Gospel (dead trees, with new grass springing up). We expect to reach out with hospitality and personal relationships (teacup and plate of food).

We were given limited resources (choice of magazines, scissors, and a glue stick) and 9 minutes to complete our task. These were hardly pieces of art. It's fascinating how each person in the room completed the assignment with personalization and their own organization. Some were very systematic; others were random. Two of us overflowed the edges and filled the page. Others had tiny images and captions with lots of unused space. One graphic designer constructed a 3-D panorama. Cool!

Hope you enjoyed the collages. It would be fun to see what you'd come up with in 9 minutes!

Read more:

*Praise the Lord! How good to sing praises to our God!    How delightful and how fitting! The Lord is rebuilding Jerusalem and bringing the exiles back to Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. He counts the stars and calls them all by name.mHow great is our Lord! His power is absolute! His understanding is beyond comprehension! Psalm 147:1-5 NLT

*Take heed, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint. Isaiah 7:4 ESV

*Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for
building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29 NIV

*Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Ephesians 6:10 ESV

Moravian Prayer: God our King, as we serve you, give us your power so we may do your will in all things. Strengthen us so we do not yield to the temptation of taking the easy way out. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Crafting the call

The temperatures in Bandung this week peak at 89o (days) and swoop to 62o (nights). What's not to like?!

As we pare down clothing for a smaller closet and a new climate, I'm happy. I've experienced so many occasions in the clothes that I'm giving away. There have been birthdays, funerals, weddings, dinners, walks in the neighborhood, bike rides on the trail, and everything between. Groceries and a grandchild have leaned against them. Very few haven't been worn often: I like variety in dress.

We're looking forward to two days of instruction: our ministry network hosts a LAUNCH workshop in Snoqualmie today and tomorrow. The landscape is gorgeous nearby, but the people in the room are more precious. We're learning to gather resources for service to others.

W spoke in chapel Wednesday. Students asked how they could go to Indo: that's very cool! The missionaries have told us to recruit people, as well as our necessary finances. We believe God will use every kind of participation to bless this country. Will you be part of that effort?

Do you sense a change coming in your own life? Is God asking you to go? Is he calling your name, whispering a new job, different country, or ministry challenge into your ears? Are you willing to listen? To respond?

For us, saying "yes" means clearing away anything that doesn't belong in the new season. It's an arduous process because we've rooted ourselves deeply in our community, church, and home. It's an ambitious project because there's so much to learn and to do.

This season is also reflective and meditative. We're rethinking life, going forward without all the props we've enjoyed. God is confirming our calling. He's drawing us in through scriptures, mentors, and stories. [Our story here.]

I want to ask you again: Do you sense a change coming in your own life? Is God asking you to go? Is he calling your name, whispering a new job, different country, or ministry challenge into your ears? Are you willing to listen? To respond?

Read more:
*Be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given the early rain for your vindication; he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain, as before. Joel 2:23 ESV

*God says, "I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily." Hosea 14:5 NLT

*Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. Luke 12:27 NLT

Moravian Prayer: Providing God, grant us the faith to trust in you providence. If you care for the simplest parts of creation, how much more do you care for us whom you created in your own image? May we cease to worry and put our trust in you. Amen.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Overhaul Orchestra

Ah, it's music to my ears. I could dance to the rhythms! The tap-tapping makes my heart sing and my blood move.

What's the symphony instrumentation? The drill bit whirls; the hammer bangs away; and the circular saw hisses a loud melody. I love it!

Some of my best "dates" since marriage have been to the building store. My tendency for "What about this?" and "We could do that!" kicks into high gear. I like browsing the hardware aisle, with its possibilities. "It may have been designed for that, but I could use it for this ... or this!" Who knew it could be so much fun to dream up possibilities of space?

A swallow's nest
The guys are working away, installing electrical sockets in the basement. "This is a wonderful space," one says. "I could live here."

If he could see it the way I do in my mind's eye - clean and jazzed up with color and design - he'd move right in.

Read more:
*But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple. Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies—make straight your way before me. Psalm 5:7-8  NIV (1984)

*How lovely is your dwelling place, LORD of heavenly forces! My very being longs, even yearns, for the LORD's courtyards. My heart and my body will rejoice out loud to the living God! Yes, the sparrow too has found a home there; the swallow has found herself a nest where she can lay her young beside your altars, LORD of heavenly forces, my king, my God! Those who live in your house are truly happy; they praise you constantly.

Those who put their strength in you are truly happy; pilgrimage is in their hearts. As they pass through the Baca Valley, they make it a spring of water. Yes, the early rain covers it with blessings.  They go from strength to strength, until they see the supreme God in Zion.

LORD God of heavenly forces, hear my prayer; listen closely, Jacob's God! Look at our shield, God; pay close attention to the face of your anointed one! Better is a single day in your courtyards than a thousand days anywhere else! I would prefer to stand outside the entrance of my God's house than live comfortably in the tents of the wicked.

The LORD is a sun and shield; God is favor and glory. The LORD gives—doesn't withhold!—good things to those who walk with integrity. LORD of heavenly forces, those who trust in you are truly happy! Psalm 84

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The business of change

Canadian flag
Oh, the joy of good mentors!

Last weekend, we received excellent counsel on prioritizing our time and energy. We're up to date with thank-yous, and working away on informational materials, scheduling services, and calling friends.

Next week we're in Eastern Washington and the week after we're in Lacey and Everett. We're looking forward to serving. We love meeting leaders whom we've served in the past. It's a funny thing, how firmly our hearts are attached to the people and churches of the Pacific Northwest. We never thought we'd be moving to another part of the world.

American flag
Though there's a long checklist of practical things-to-do, the most important preparation for us is spiritual. We're gathering strength for the challenges ahead by praying and reading scripture alone and in community. We're drinking in the preaching and books. And we're listening to the wise voices around us

The uncommon season of preparation includes letting go of the past, relishing the present, and anticipating the future. From the past - After this morning's pickup, one Hummel angel remains from 18 boxes of Christmas ornaments, trees, garlands, lights, and decorating memories. Gone. Gone. Gone ... to a gal who does church events and is planning a pastoral thank-you event this month. She married a missionary kid and supports missions [of course!]. The second grand piano leaves the living room within the month; the desks are out of the office; the dining table is gone; our bed is sold. W's current teaching contract expires in May; I'm wrapping up projects, clearing my heart as well as my home.

Indonesian flag
In the present, each day is an adventure. Every morning, our best-laid plans start to morph; by evening, we've experienced a flow of words, worship, work, and play. I'm happily surprised by empty space and the progress we make. We still have company though the house is a mess. We visit with family and old and new friends. We follow our spiritual disciplines, keep regular commitments, and glance at our to-do lists.

In the future, who knows what God will do? I've never been bored when following Christ. My challenge is obeying completely, willingly, and with a glad heart. I don't want to be halfhearted or fainting with fear. God's love compels. So into the unknown we go.

Where are you headed? Is God calling YOU somewhere you didn't expect? In which ways are you living out the Good News?

Read more:
*At that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call on the name of the Lord and serve him with one accord. Zephaniah 3:9 ESV

*Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. Ephesians 5:1 NIV

*Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe. Hebrews 12:28 ESV

Moravian Prayer; Our unwavering Foundation, we thank you for being our refuge and for your leadership and might! In our divided world, we pray we will serve you and change our speech to reflect your will for our unity. Amen.

CS Lewis, letter to Mrs. Ray Garrett, 12 September 1960:

"The whole lesson of my life has been that no ‘methods of stimulation’ are of any lasting use. They are indeed like drugs—a stronger dose is needed each time and soon no possible dose is effective. We must not bother about thrills at all. Do the present duty—bear the present pain—enjoy the present pleasure—and leave emotions and ‘experiences’ to look after themselves.

"That’s the programme, isn’t it?"

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A dead bunny morning

I come in after a morning meeting to find a prone rabbit and a doll stroller in the narrowed hallway. I remember those days with our little kids: it's hard to keep track of them, never mind their wandering toys. I step over and go upstairs to my office = the privilege of being a grandma, not the mama.

Our kids have moved in so our (and their) boxes, cleaning supplies, picture frames, and furniture line up in unexpected places, waiting for landing spots. It's complicated when you're overlapping households.

W and I have had a great week of meeting people, mentoring and being mentored, writing and teaching.

So! grateful.
One of our most welcome accomplishments is resolving an administrative glitch. W finally located the email address that contains notifications of support and AG mission updates. W has repeatedly written from his address, "Help!" but the responses (and other communications) have gone to our official email ... in my name, not his. Administratively, I'm the "primary team member" and he's "the spouse." Funny, no?

Our apologies to those who have wondered what's the matter with us! Several mentioned, "We haven't heard from you. Did you get our contribution? We haven't received an acknowledgement!" Eeek.

We've know now where your acknowledgements and notes are reported. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! We treasure your partnership and your encouragement. Those thank-yous will be in the mail tomorrow.

Read more:
**Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away the judgments against you. Zephaniah 3:14-15 NEV

*In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-5 NIV

*Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Philippians 4:4 ESV

*Christ himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness. 1 Peter 2:24 NEV

Moravian Prayer: Our Savior, you have cleared our names in God's court. Grant that we will always remember your sacrifice for us. May we always live to serve you and your righteousness here on earth. Amen.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Things they say you'll love

Here's a list of what we were told will be fun about this last year at home:
  1. Dreaming the future. God will put new things in your hearts and fill your mind with ideas. 
  2. Meeting people who will shape you. God will build new relationships that broaden your scope of possibilities, spiritually, intellectually, physically, and emotionally.
  3. Resizing life. Shedding the past will open doors for now and what is yet to come.
  4. Fundraising. It's meeting friends who support God's call and "go along with you" with prayer and resources.
  5. Being inspired by others. In unexpected times and ways, people come alongside to encourage, support, and share their experiences.
  6. Inspiring others. Who knows who, young and old, will engage in Kingdom service because of our own excitement about - get this - God's call on "old people" like us?
We've found it's all is true. We're excited, thrilled, and anticipating the move to Indonesia next June.

Yet it's not just fun. It's hard work, this alignment with the call of God within the shape of our personalities and backgrounds. There have been a lot of smiles, a few tears, some heated discussions, and many brainstorming sessions with friends and colleagues.

We appreciate every prayer and every contribution - words, hugs, construction help, those who've rehomed our stuff, money toward the mission, and commitments to come alongside when we go. God's goodness shines through you - and we are SOOOO grateful to Him ... and to you.

Read more:
* I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2 NEV

*A king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. Psalm 33:16 NEV

*Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant. Mark 10:43 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Creator God, it is only in service to you that we can truly be great. Help us to serve those in need and be the arm of your salvation. Act through our service in mighty ways just as you did when you created this world. Amen.

*From CS Lewis in The Great Divorce: I believe, to be sure, that any man who reaches Heaven will find that what he abandoned (even in plucking out his right eye) has not been lost: that the kernel of what he was really seeking even in his most depraved wishes will be there, beyond expectation, waiting for him in ‘the High Countries’. In that sense it will be true for those who have completed the journey (and for no others) to say that good is every- thing and Heaven everywhere. But we, at this end of the road, must not try to anticipate that retrospective vision. If we do, we are likely to embrace the false and disastrous converse and fancy that everything is good and everywhere is Heaven.

But what, you ask, of earth? Earth, I think, will not be found by anyone to be in the end a very distinct place. I think earth, if chosen instead of Heaven, will turn out to have been, all along, only a region in Hell: and earth, if put second to Heaven, to have been from the beginning a part of Heaven itself.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


30" snowflake lights
frame the 12' tree
It's not Christmas yet - except in those wholesale stores. In the sorting process, I pulled out some pictures of last Christmas, thinking how different things will be this year.

Last autumn was slow and quiet for me. Though I hadn't decorated our tree for a few years, I felt like doing it again. I pulled out all the boxes of ornaments: 35 years worth. A Freecycler took a half-dozen boxes off my hands, but the tree was still full. We hung huge IKEA snowflake lights on either side of the tree, moved the furnishings around to accommodate our guests, and celebrated with friends and family.

I snapped a few pictures, cooked a lot of food, and felt content when the season ended. I didn't seem to be in the same rush as other years, when I'd take down the tree the day after Christmas. It stood through the New Year. We left the MAKROS lights up: they turned to giant dandelions, decorating the ceiling in patterns of light and shadow as winter gave way to spring.

BEFORE: memories of last
Every day in January, I gave away bags and boxes of excess things: clothing, china, ornaments, food. I was surprised how easy it was to let go of things I'd enjoyed for years. I don't remember missing anything after it was gone.

It's great fun to assemble a home. It's fun to declutter at a willing pace. It's harder to take it apart.

Yesterday, W - who hates heights - climbed up to take the IKEA pendants from the 17' LR ceiling and put back plain bulbs. A youth pastor from Gig Harbor happily took the lights off our hands. We sold the tree last month: our kids prefer their little one. Anyone want our remaining garlands and ornaments?

AFTER: W inserts a bulb
while T takes apart the last lamp

"Please bring home lots of paper boxes," I ask W. The laundry room has to be taken apart upstairs. The kids' cleaning supplies are crammed into the powder room. I can't sort things until I know how much storage we'll have, but there's no sense in heaping more into hallways and the LR!

As we vacate spaces, the kids are filling them with their own furniture, boxes, and K's toys. I admire my daughter-in-law's courage in sharing the household. We're eagerly waiting for the guys to finish out our new space: they work on it in the evenings and on weekends.

Our granddaughter thinks she's in Playland and is the most cheerful playmate. "Oma! Oma! Hi Oma!" she calls as she comes to find me.

The slow and quiet autumn of last year? It's a treasured memory as life unravels to usher in a new season.

Read more:
*Our steps are made firm by the Lord, when he delights in our way; though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong, for the Lord holds us by the hand. Psalm 37:23-24 NLT

*Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Psalm 95:6-7 NEV

*Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught Peter, saying to him, "Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?" Matthew 14:31 NEV

Moravian Prayer: Gracious King, though we are fallen creatures, we thank you that you delight in our success and obedience, and willingly and generously catch us when we fall. Bless our lives as we seek to serve you in new ways and with great thanksgiving. Amen.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

"Oh my leaping letters!"

"The seventh binder. Done." I sigh with relief as the scanner hums through its save-as-OCR process. Click on title. Type in "Letters 1994-95." Finished. Those binders sat on the stairs since last week, when I pulled them from the guest room shelf to make room for our kids' move-in.

Hundreds of pages litter the floor beside my office chair. They're typed, handwritten, and printed on computers. I've just scanned a decade of life, recorded in letters written (and a few received) between 1985-1995.

I call my friend Martha to read her a snippet. The words capture a shared memory of her daughters, and their family's preparations to move for work in Asia. She was in transition, as I am now.

"This was your version of blogging ... before there was blogging," she observes, laughing.

She's right. My survival mechanism has always been writing. I recorded our move to Seattle from Canada, through three rental homes, and building our own place.

My husband loved his work at the university. I was homeschooling and raising our kids: we explored everything from the fire station to the pizza shop, from music lessons to sports events.

Everything was fresh, different, and interesting. My new friends helped me understand the distinctions between our cultures. But sometimes I wondered if we'd landed on another planet.

In the early 90s, we spent 5 years getting county permits to build on our property because of the "wetland" created by one neighbor draining his gutters onto our land. We spent another year placating the neighbor on the other side, whose tree our contractor had accidentally taken down. C'mon, what would you think over the roar of the track-hoe engine, if someone pointed at a 100 foot tree, shouted and gestured, and then backed up the driveway? Yup, our track-hoe guy graciously picked up the neighbor's maple tree and tossed it into the woods "as a favor." The sheriff was preventing a murder when we arrived. (Thereafter, Darrin refused to talk to us during the 5 years he lived next door.)

I penned observations about the birth of our fourth son in a strange country. We were stunned by things we now take for granted, like huge insurance premiums, topped by a bill for $2000 to cover a total of five doctor-office visits, no attending physician at the birth, and one night in hospital with our baby before I got kicked out. I'd lain in bed for three hours with my newborn, waiting for a nurse to wash him and get me into a clean bed in the ward. It was a slow night and the nurses were gossiping at the nurse's station down the hall. They'd forgotten about us after W went home: the time from hospital arrival to birth took 10 minutes.

I finally buzzed the chatterboxes, said, "Look, you can keep the poor little guy if you want, but he needs a bath and I need to sleep!" They left a baggie of drugs at my hospital bedside: enemas, pain-killers, and laxatives to take at my discretion. What?! I sent it back to the pharmacy, intact. In Canada, we'd had two children for "free" after our minimal health insurance payments. The third cost $5 when we registered at the front desk of the hospital. Our family doctor had delivered the kids. (In the USA, our family doctor refused to have anything to do with the birth: I was sent to an OB-GYN who didn't know anything about us or our family history.) Those post-natal home visits by a community nurse? Gone.

And I wrote it all down. The good and the just-plain-seems-weird.

Who got letters? Friends, family, and a few regulars:
  • Two friend spent a few years overseas, one in the Philippines and one in Africa. I wrote  one every week about our shared communities of faculty, friends, and family. I wrote monthly to the other, mostly about new books, studies on common interests, and people we'd known in youth group at church.
  • Every week, I updated a friend while her husband did his doctorate in another state. At our university, they were the most community-minded couple. They knew everyone from alumni to retirees to current students. At church, they taught a Sunday School class for couples and young families. I couldn't imagine a year-long gap in their institutional and personal memory, so I wrote them about faculty and friends at church. The special occasions like weddings and funerals. The color of bridesmaid dresses. Who dated whom. Policies being formed at the university and who had a stake in them. (Though my husband rarely talked about his workplace, others were quite vocal; plus, I chaired the women's committee.) Later, as alumni director, I relied on these dear friends for 40 years of institutional memories.
  • My brother lived in various parts of Europe. I wrote my sister-in-law a few times a month with news about family and people we'd grown up with.
  • My aunt and uncle, beloved "second parents" to me, got at least a letter a month. Auntie M since passed away, but I still write to Uncle E.
I paused to read some of the letters as the scanner churned out the pages. I pulled out several written by others, for return to their writers this week. My daughter used to pen a few lines to her cousin at the bottom of my pages: she'll get a kick out of herself as emerging artist and writer. My college roommate is in transition: she may be encouraged by what she wrote 20 years ago. My son's mother-in-law and I meet next week: our past correspondence will stir up happy memories of when the kids were little.

Throwing out those letters is like destroying a piece of me. I stowed them to remember how and what I experienced in my 20s and 30s.

It's been helpful when working with younger women, to pull them off the shelves and understand how we mature. The letters reminded me of how much work God has done around and inside me. They expose His goodness, favor, patience, and kindness. Oh, I am grateful!

So if you find a letter in your mailbox next week, enjoy it. It's who we used to be, the feeder roots for who we are today, by God's grace

Read more:
*The Lord loves righteousness and justice. Psalm 33:5 NEV

*Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God. It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations. Psalm 100 NIV

*Paul said, "Through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you; by this Jesus everyone who believes is set free from all those sins from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses." Acts 13:38-39 NLT

*Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that
we may present everyone mature in Christ. Colossians
1:28 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Savior of the world, you provide the chance for us to be clothed in your righteousness, bought by your suffering. Grant that we who aspire to please you do so remembering that it is your sacrifice that allows us to do so. Amen.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

That's just what happens

Expect the unexpected, like
Daniel Zeller's Terrarium Desk
I get a clear message: "These are what she's looking for." I'm surfing online for dining chairs. We sold ours and the kids need some.

"I was thinking of spending $20 for each," my daughter-in-love has said. "I don't think I can find anything great for that price, but that's what is in my head."

I recognize the specific direction she's feeling. God is often that direct about parameters so we recognize his provision. It's part of the resource stream we've experienced over and over in this spiritual gift called "giving."

At the time, T and M are in the full-blown moving-in process. Exhausted. Heads full of details. Not in the mood to shop. Too tired to look.

I'm watching them scurry in and out with stuff. I'm grazing CL and staying out of the way. When I see the chairs, I send the link to Melissa. She may have time to look at it later.

Yes, indeed. Today she picks up the 6 beautiful chairs ... @$20 each, of course.

It's fun to exercise a gift, but it's sheer pleasure to benefit others with it.

What ways are you designed to bless others? Are you functioning in the gifting that God has placed within you?

Got a story? We'd love to read about how God combined the natural flow of your personality, gifting, and circumstances to pour out his blessings.

Read more:
*You, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you. Psalm 86:5 NLT

*May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. 2 Thessalonians 3:5 NLT

Moravian Prayer: Lord Jesus, we are thankful that we remain steadfast in your love. Help us to spread your love to others daily knowing that the world sees you through us. Lord, make us yours forever. Amen.

"We have at least a few options..."

"We can do this a few ways," I say to my husband and son. They're manhandling a 100 lb. coffee table into the house. Where to store it? It could go here ... or there. Well, maybe not there. A Coach store display table in white lacquer, it's commercially sized at 30"X72". I like it!

The new space is evolving in my head, funded by things we've sold. Right away, I can see that the table rules out our cream sofa slipcovers. (No biggie. Add those covers to the sale pile. Our other colors will look great.)

When I encounter a problem or an opportunity, my instincts leap forward to possible solutions. The desired outcome may have been loosely or tightly framed. However, the journey toward it and even the goal continues to evolve until we're done. I've found that the sum of the parts is often more than predicted! (And it's nearly always different than expected, unless we're willing to fight for exact outcomes.)

The perch for our
greenhouse, as it was
disassembled (BEFORE)

The new backyard ramp

An example? I've visualized our backyard as a broad patio area, landscaped with planters, a greenhouse, and outdoor seating. The space remained an untamed buffer on the border of the forest, the greenhouse an outpost in an unruly green sea. W or the boys weed-whacked occasionally to keep the foliage from overrunning the house. Our sons beat back encroaching blackberries and reeds every spring.

Goodbye, chaises!
Yesterday, the fellows who brought in gravel and sloped the yard for accessibility redefined the space. We won't be here long and it's functional. Forget the planters, pavers, and evenings on the edge of the forest! We sold our chaises last night.

W has a few more loads of wood and basement leftovers to take to the dump, which will improve the view. We gained an extra parking space at the end of the driveway. W's happy about it; I'm shedding my ideals and getting ready to move away.

Outside, lightning is flashing. Thunder rolls in through the screen door. The rain taps the skylight and saturates the deck. It's a new day, with time to pack up a few more boxes, meet with peers in ministry, and ask God for favor in bringing buyers for what we no longer need. I'll maybe even get in a walk with my granddaughter. Sip a few cups of tea between everything.

C. S. Lewis made an interesting observation about times of discomfort and transition:

The Christian doctrine of suffering explains, I believe, a very curious fact about the world we live in. The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure, and merriment, He has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy.

It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and pose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bathe or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.
From The Problem of Pain

Read more:
*Lead me in your truth, and teach me. Psalm 25:5 NLT

*Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go. Isaiah 48:17 ESV

*Jesus says, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. ... Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." John 14:6, 27

Moravian Prayer: Our Guide and Sustainer, you are the beginning, the end, and everything in between. You are the perfect mentor, the perfect companion, and the perfect counselor. Help us always to rely on your wisdom. Amen.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Terrific two!

Our granddaughter and her parents moved into our place on Saturday. What a busy girl she is!

We're reading Make Way for Ducklings. I "read" it in German, of course. We're practicing coming when called: "Look at how the ducklings come right away when Mama Duck quacks! When Oma calls, Kinsey comes right away." Well, that works in theory.

Talk about a culture shift. In the 1941 book, the kids ride a swan barge in around a Boston lake with their extended families. The boat has no siderails, but no one falls in or drowns. The policemen are willing to drive over to stop traffic for ducklings, and no one seems aggravated by the delay. And people are allowed to feed the ducks, too. imagine!

Making sure Oma understands
We've been up to the nearby park a few times. Kinsey is resigned to walking up our hill and through the neighborhood.

"Oma, Up-We-GO! Up-We-GO!" she hollered at me the first two times. I'm thinking, hey, sweetie, let's both work on our leg muscles. She trots along, pauses to drag sticks from the side of the street, and tosses pebbles into the drains. "Plop!"

Since watching a caterpillar move dirt near the park, Kinsey's been scooping up dirt, mulch, and gravel. She tips it out of her hands with glee. "Look, Oma!"

We had a nice surprise for her today: a little dozer came down our driveway, moved a bunch of gravel, and made a ramp and landing pad for our basement suite.

We went outside to say hi to the guys and admire the dozer up close. Of course, she had to get her hands dirty by showing me how the shovel scoops mud. Happy girl!

Kinsey explaining Snuggle
glasses to Oma
Another treat has been reading Snuggle Puppy. We've put on glasses, held an umbrella, eaten cookies, and worn hats, just like Snuggle Puppy. It's all I can do not to giggle but we're trying to be serious about our imitations. HAHA

Though our lives are in full transition, the small things may bring the biggest joys. Ordinary moments pile up to create extraordinary memories and a memorable life.

Read more:
*The king said to Daniel, "Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings." Daniel 2:47 NLT

*I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 NLT

*Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. 2 Timothy 1:13-14 NIV

*All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV

Moravian Prayer: Our King and Master who reigns over all of creation, you have promised us that we are the ones who will not be separated from your love. We pray that we may spread your love to those who still need it. Amen.