Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Passion Week begins

The stunning sky above on our travels
Western culture thinks of "passion" as a lustful surrender to our senses and desires.

For Christians, however, Passion Week means something entirely different. It is also called Holy Week, when we celebrate the surrender of God-with-us to his divine plan. As we move into Holy Week, let's focus on God's accomplishments - on our behalf.

Each year, I become more aware of the grace in which we live and move and have our being.

Sunday, March 29
We spend the morning with Ben and Lia at Elevation Church. We're on the front bench, always a strange disconnect for me. (I normally head for the back third of any gathering to take in the responses of those around me.) It's easier to focus on the music and the words this way though.

After we talk about the journey we're on, James gets up to speak. W was his thesis supervisor at Northwest U. It's encouraging to hear that James is planting a church in south Seattle. He reminds us that God wants us to respond to Him within the personality and setting He made. We may be quiet or exuberant, moving or still, singing or speaking or signing ... in the many ways we express our gratitude and praise to Him in worship, He is pleased.

Two toddlers MIA: one's napping, one's exploring
Our family lunch feels like the years of Sundays in the past. When we walk home from service in Indonesia, we are far away from this: our children and grandchildren are on the other side of the world. Our kids are busy - so this time is a treasured gift to us. Wonderful! But our daughter is missing from the circle. We can't wait to see her next week.

W looks at the calendar - almost full - and decides we should visit family in Canada. We're on the road early. The GPS shows 42 minutes for 45 miles. Amazing! (In Indonesia, we'd be delighted with100 minutes for 60 miles ... on a good day.)

Love my mom and dad!
We climb into the car on our regular sides: W's on the right, I'm on the left. However, the steering wheel has shifted sides, compared to our Indonesian vehicle. It moves from W's hands to mine on this trip  (thanks, hon) - and will shift back to his when we go home. (Indonesian traffic follows the British system of driving on the left.)

Women in the West take for granted the freedom of driving by themselves, of coming and going alone safely. I'm enjoying that and indulging in it - before we return to our new normal.

First we stop by my family in the Fraser Valley. Mom's tulips are in full spring bloom. My mom is thin and says she feels tired after a bad bout of flu this winter. It's great to hug her and Dad. They've purchased my favorite smoked sausage from the local butcher. Mom's baked apple pie! Oh yum! My brother and his wife drop by at lunchtime - of course we snap pictures to commemorate.

We pull out of the driveway without seeing my dear friend and a future partner. Next time.

A cheerful Kowalski selfie
Then it's off to a nearby city where W's family lives. His mom warmly welcomes us. I'm sleepy enough to catch a quick nap before we go to his sister's for supper. Sylvia plates up a thick stew and crisp salad and warm cake for her family and ours. We show pictures of our Bandung home. Talk about their life and ours. Pray. Hug. Create memories.

We are back on the road after dusk and home by 10. We tumble into bed with another cherished set of memories.

Read more:
*Look down from your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless your people Israel. Deuteronomy 26:15 ESV

*Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the Lord, who do their work in darkness and think, “Who sees us? Who will know?” Isaiah 29:15 NIV

*Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. Luke 1:68 NIV

*Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. Everything exposed by the light becomes visible. Ephesians 5:11,13 ESV

Moravian Prayer: King of Kings, your love for us can never be repaid. Let us praise your name and try to live the life that you offer us through the merits of your life, sufferings, death, and resurrection.

O Glorious Lord, free us from the blindness to your everlasting light shining before us, and never let us hide in darkness from the wondrous love and grace that you offer to us, your children. Amen.

C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
[And this brings me to] the other sense of glory—glory as brightness, splendour, luminosity. We are to shine as the sun, we are to be given the Morning Star. I think I begin to see what it means. In one way, of course, God has given us the Morning Star already: you can go and enjoy the gift on many fine mornings if you get up early enough. What more, you may ask, do we want?

Ah, but we want so much more—something the books on aesthetics take little notice of. But the poets and the mythologies know all about it. We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. That is why we have peopled air and earth and water with gods and goddesses and nymphs and elves—that, though we cannot, yet these projections can enjoy in themselves that beauty, grace, and power of which Nature is the image. That is why the poets tell us such lovely falsehoods.

They talk as if the west wind could really sweep into a human soul; but it can’t. They tell us that “beauty born of murmuring sound” will pass into a human face; but it won’t. Or not yet. For if we take the imagery of Scripture 
seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendour of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy. 

At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of he door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in. When human souls have become as perfect in voluntary obedience as the inanimate creation is in its lifeless obedience, then they will put on its glory, or rather that greater glory of which Nature is only the first sketch.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A birthday week to remember

The days flew by this week. We've met so many friends already but the time with family is amazing as well. It's Sunday morning, and we're looking forward to being with Lia and Ben at Elevation in Kirkland.

Tuesday, March 24
It's the 26th birthday of our youngest, Jonathan. He's in our prayers all day. From the first surprise that we were expecting a baby (our fourth), we've enjoyed this child. He was always a connector, engaging with friends and family in a peace-making way.

Sad face, perfectly done
Miss K has a play date with a friend in the morning. She puts on a sad face for Oma (as opposed to her happy face) as I walk out the door for a trip to Costco with my friend Martha. Back home, Indonesians comment on the quality of goods that come to the West. It's true: plump meats, the best of spices, the size of food portions - the shelves groan with premium goods. Pecans, oils, peppers, cheeses, and vanilla. They're all here in bulk, neatly stacked.

I'm looking for a commercial tablecloth for our dining table back home. Found! and I graze the aisles for other things for hospitality. (W and I are already packing to stay within our luggage limit.)

M and I eat lunch at YehYeh's: Vietnamese soup and sandwiches. W and I have missed the breadth of Asian flavors and the varieties of restaurants in Seattle. Our friends are graciously meeting us at our favorite haunts. I try to squeeze in a nap in the afternoon, like a good granny should.

"Where are you going, Oma?" Miss K asks as we're once again standing at the front door in the evening.

"It's Oma's play date," I tell her. What a relaxing supper date with friends in Kirkland!

Afterwards, we pick up Jonathan at his apartment. It's time for his birthday treat - a Chinese foot massage. The Joy Spa in Kirkland is our favorite for excellent $25/hour foot and back treatments. We've gone there for years. By the end of an hour, we're relaxed. W prays a blessing over Jono on the way home. We want our family not only to be favored by God but also to serve where he places us.

The kids and I go for a walk. Then it's off to lunch with the Northwest University Women's group.

Kathleen's table settings are a feast for the eye. We get to meet the new Castleberry grandson. All I can think is, what an exquisite creation of God. Lucky boy, to be born into a tribe that loves him so!

The women have brought soups and salads - deeelicious. Many of these gals have invested in our lives over the years. Our friend Marietta explains to the group how she and her husband encourage their grandkids. When the child is between 12-13 years old, the grandparents spend a week with each, exploring faith and having fun. Wow - great idea!

In the evening, my friend Angela has invited us to Calvary in Seattle. Eva, a friend of years, surprises me by showing up. What a treat! I play a few songs - oh am I rusty or what! - and answer questions about our Indonesian adventure. It's a tranquil setting for reflection and conversation.

I'm under the weather. The cold W passed to the kids on the weekend filters down to me. Regardless, the morning starts at 6am. Jason our home pastor encourages us and catches us up on his adventures over a pancake breakfast. Then a few credentialed women hang out at Lake Forest Park while W rushes home to toss the bedding from the washer to the dryer. (It's one of "those days,"a Western schedule which would be impossible at home because of the traffic in Indonesia.) This is a group I miss more than any other: our Thursdays were precious when we lived here - and are even more dear to me on this visit.

The next stop is the university. Our NWMN leader is engaging in a region-wide "listening tour," stopping in various areas to get the pulse of the service teams. It's fun to meet with so many colleagues and coworkers. I take some strawberries, grapes, and scones home for the kids. Oh yum.

Lunch at the Crab Cracker with Don and Brenda is fabulous. They were our pastors when we left for Indonesia - and are now leading a larger group. They've supported us all along the way and do the same today. Lunch portions are so big I eat a third and pack the rest away (for Saturday's breakfast, as it turns out.)

My head pounds and my teeth hurt by afternoon. I have to cancel the evening run to Ellensburg. I'm supposed to be camping at a retreat center with 160 other women. My body says no. And sleeps from 8pm to 10am the next morning while W hangs out with our sons.

W accepts an invitation to an evening banquet but I can't imagine going anywhere when I awaken. He'll have to represent us. I sleep in and about about noon, my cold begins to clear up and my brain starts to de-fog.

Brenda asks whether I want to ride along to a missy tea at the women's retreat I bailed out of yesterday. YES please! Hurrah. I do get to go at least for a short part ... and it's with my lovely friend driving her Audi through the mountains. Oh - what a sweet bonus from God.

Melissa (not our d-in-love) puts on a beautiful spread. Teacups, fruit, goodies, flowers, framed quotes, and giveaways. We women are serving in Africa, Asia, and the West. It's fun to hear how everyone is coping with cultural adjustments and opportunities - even those who flew in earlier this week. We may be jet-lagged and weary, but we're happy and energized by being together. (Sonia's missing in the photo.)

The first shift of women eat supper together. I sit with old friends and coworkers: such a pleasure - before Brenda and I head home to our own beds and rest.

W's on the boat overnight and has coffee with his regulars in the morning. I'm looking through pictures of him with the kids. "Hey, the little ones will think I was never there," I tell him. "Please remember to take some pictures with me and them!" Though he's the "photographer" with the gear, I'm behind the lens of my IPhone, recording this trip. They look happy and we'll have a lot of pictures to enjoy when we're far away again.

It's my 59th birthday. I get early morning kisses and record Miss K singing Happy Birthday while refreshing my hot water bottle in the kitchen. Then I sneak back to bed for a few more hours, willing my cold into compliance.

Updating my profile on FB this week, I've noticed that my birthdate privacy setting is "me only". I unblock it for the first time. Hundreds of wishes pour in from around the world. I'm surprised and delighted throughout the day by kind and warm comments. W and I have made so many friends over the years. (No wonder Indonesia feels quiet sometimes!) Each name brings a memory or a prayer to mind. We don't take pics all day - I'm having too much fun to remember and W, also recovering from his cold, is tied up with business, from emails to tax prep to paying bills.

Melissa has put flowers, a gift certificate, and chocolates on the table from our kids. My family calls with birthday wishes. Miss K wanted to bake me a pink cake. She and Melissa are hard at work when I finally appear mid-morning. We sample the chocolate frosting and sprinkles. Melissa is an amazing mom: she makes life happen here, runs the household, and then tonight goes off to work while Timo puts the kids to sleep.

Meanwhile, W and I join Mel and Martha for supper. Oh yum. Such good Thai food at Silver Spoon! We go back to their house: the guys are working while Martha and I share memories and transitions. They're retiring from their present post soon so are in the thick of packing and reframing, just as we have been.

I am blessed beyond measure. Thanks everyone!

Read more:
*I made the earth, and created humankind upon it. Isaiah 45:12 ESV

*For us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist. 1 Corinthians 8:6 ESV

*For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 1 Timothy 2:5-6 ESV

*...and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:4 NRSVA

Moravian Prayer: Dearest Jesus, blessed are they who come in the name of the Lord. Let us humble ourselves before you and be always mindful of what you suffered, with great love, for us sinners. Hosanna in the highest. Amen.

From a letter by C.S. Lewis in 1954:
About death, I go through different moods, but the times when I can desire it are never, I think, those when this world seems harshest. On the contrary, it is just when there seems to be most of Heaven already here that I come nearest to longing for the patria. It is the bright frontispiece [which] whets one to read the story itself. All joy (as distinct from mere pleasure, still more amusement) emphasises our pilgrim status: always reminds, beckons, awakes desire. Our best havings are wantings.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Getting reacquainted amid celebrations

Happy Birthday to our youngest, Jonathan. We'll relax together tonight, after celebrating him last Sunday with the family.

Apple blossoms in springtime,
tempting me to pick up my paintbrush
Do you remember going off to college or moving to a new neighborhood? By the time you come back, you've had a lot of experiences. You might not be able to explain what's happened but it seems like life just carried on the same old way without you.

There's a hint of that feeling in coming back from Indonesia. Through social media and calls, we've had lots of conversations with friends so it's more of an exchange of life than a disconnect: a friend has been ill, kids have done this or that, marriages happen, money changes hands. We've heard about it. all And now we are here.

It's great to reconnect in person. Face to face.

Wednesday, March 18
The morning starts at 3am. Jetlag. I can't fall back asleep. W is in Springfield working with a committee. He's fending off a cold and exchanging theological ideas. I'm happy to drop in on my writers' critique group. We're missing a member who is traveling and a new gal is at the table. Accomplished and published writers - I'm honored to be there.

It's serious business, this writing. But it's enlivened and made more beautiful by the setting. Lydia prepares a bright spring tea table and Barbara brings food. We share suggestions for clear communication, clean grammar, and a flow of ideas.

Writers together
Throughout the day, I hear the "ping" on my laptop as pages arrive for editing and return. When I'm near the computer, it takes just a few minutes to scan the screen to see where the eye or mind stops. Back and forth the words go.

I take a long stroll in the afternoon, my first walk in Seattle. My body feels frozen from all the sitting. The air is still: in three miles, I pass two people walking their dogs and about 20 cars, most of them parked. Astonishingly empty. My legs carry me down the driveway and the silent woods are a welcome sight. My hands itch for the watercolors I've left back home. So many beautiful blooms to paint! 

The long gravel driveway back to the house
Kim meets me at 7am. The Starbucks where we plan to chat is closed for construction so we sit in the car, waiting for the mall coffee shop to open. Some friendships are complex and rich. I am so grateful for this friend; her honesty and integrity are life-giving. She heads off to work and I go into the mall.

What a joy to hug the women who show up for breakfast at Third Place Commons. Sherry has driven the furthest. "You know I love you because it took me an hour to get here." She's been a consistent encourager and is one of my role models.

Going around the table, we share stories and opportunities. I'm so happy to see my friends that I forget to snap a picture. Each gal gets a straight-edged wooden spoon like the ones in my kitchen. "Pray for us when you use these, ok?"

After we disband, I visit the library downstairs and load up with books. How I've missed the words, photos, and the texture of leafing through English non-fiction! I also bring home a few novels and get hooked on a story set in small-town America. I am surprised by the character's description of where he lives: "north of Chicago." I would have guessed the place to be further south. (Hmmm, maybe Chicago is proportionately further south than I thought. I 'm a bit of an ignoramus on parts of US geography.)

W flies in from Missouri in the afternoon. Dear friends, traveling back from the eastern side of the state, pick him up at the airport . They bring him north to Kirkland, while I drive south from the house. Our dinner is wonderful, renewing. We love to be with Mel and Martha. 

Our table overlooks Lake Washington. The boats sway gently in the bay below us, grey hulls on grey water under a grey sky. There's a sudden pang in my heart for the lush greens and bright sunshine of home.

Quiet beauty 

Friday and Saturday
We're working on a few projects and need supplies. Afterwards, W heads off to the boat with his friends. He overnights with the guys before waking up to have coffee with another group. He's missed these connections as much as I have missed mine. When he gets back, we run a few more errands. 

We're finally back at our home church, Creekside. The traditional service is our first stop. We love the seniors who encourage us with their warm smiles and pray for us while we're away. Then it's nice to sit with family in the main service. All around us, people sing along (unusual in this culture) and the talk engages and challenges us. Good job Andy, Darius, and Jason.

Back with the Family at Creekside
Then it's time for lunch with my family. My folks drive down from Canada in the morning and meet us at the Sichuan Kitchen in Bellevue. Oh yum! We haven't had great Chinese food since leaving the city. The boiled fish with prickly ash and hot peppers is particularly tasty.

The tribe

Goofing around with great-grandpa
We celebrate Jonathan's and my birthdays with a lovely cake created by my mom. Though she's been very ill this winter and is just coming back to life, she bakes a Black Forest Cake. It's her secret family recipe. Dense and flavorful, it brings back a host of happy memories.

Thanks, Mom!

We meet our friends at Citizen Coffee for breakfast. They will be in Indonesia in a few months so they have lots of questions. ("Doesn't it make you realize how much you've experienced?" another friend asks me later in the day.) Yes, we wondered about many things before we left Seattle, too. How grateful we are for the year behind us and the year ahead. 

The couple at the next table is too busy to look at each other: everyone seems to be on their phones and tablets. Welcome back to Seattle!

Seattle ambiance
In the afternoon, we meet with nursing and community development students at a local university. They're interested in investing time in Indonesia. "If you want to serve, come on - Indonesians have a lot of ideas and projects going on behalf of their neighbors."

We pause before leaving to say hi to Amir, sitting further down the table. He's a law student interested in peace-making in the Middle East. His parents came from Iran before the Shah was ousted. He shares Iranian history and his perspectives on the conflicts and challenges of the region. It's encouraging to see his love and concern for the area. We pray with him for God's peace and favor before heading to the next appointment.

Which actually doesn't take place until tomorrow - and tomorrow's too full for me to attend. We drive home as the sun begins to set.

Read more:
*Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10 ESV

*Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” Isaiah 2:3 ESV

*People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Luke 13:29 NIV

*It is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. 1 Corinthians 4:2 ESV

Moravian Prayer: This is the day that the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it before our God. Let us worship and bow down before him!

Lord our God, all good gifts are given to us through your word and grace. Let us never forget our duty to be stewards of all that you have given and to share it for your glory. Amen.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Feet on the ground

How wonderful to be guests in our former home. Our daughter-in-love Melissa must have scrubbed her knuckles raw. I sure can't remember our house (another place at the time) being this clean when our kids were little. And our son clipped and trimmed and cleaned so the yard looks great.

Of course, the most fun is the welcome from our grandkids. I haven't seen them for 8.5 months. (W saw them in October when he was working on a national committee.) Miss K is now a verbal 3-year-old and her little brother is a mini moving track-hoe. We enjoy their antics and their hugs and kisses.

Waiting for our airport pick-up
Sunday, March 15, 2015
After a 9-hour stopover in Korea, the flight is uneventful and we encounter no problems entering the US. Our suitcases are among the first off the plane.

Timothy picks us up and whisks us to his place. The rest of the tribe shows up shortly after. My head goes round and round with noisy reunions, good food and beautiful tulips - thanks to d-in-love Rebekah, and travel lag. (It is a dear friend's birthday but I actually don't coordinate my brain and intentions about calling her until Tuesday.) We call our parents and enjoy our children, nephew, and the grands.

One of the weirdest sensations is the cold drizzle on our hands and face. Seattle greets us with showers and clouds. We haven't missed that part of this wonderful city. The air feels cool and fresh. The streets look empty and the neighborhood is so tidy.

W has erupted in his typical "out of routine and pressure's off" cold. In the evening we drive to a drugstore for medicine and a hot water bottle.

Oh oh. I've left my PJs at home in Bandung. Find clean trousers and a long-sleeved t-shirt and get to bed. I pop in earplugs. Grandparents have only good obligations, to love and spoil the grandkids. We don't have to wake up at night with them. Poor Levi is up during the wee hours, crying for his parents while we sleep on.

W is headed to a conferral in Springfield, leaving later tonight. So we get as much done as we can, driving into the city for a breakfast meeting at Citizen Coffee. It's encouraging to get Bill's counsel and hear the process of urban church life in Seattle. My caramelized onion, avocado, apple, and goat cheese crepes are amazing. What big portions even in this "healthy" restaurant. On the way back, we drop by a Walmart for PJs (none available with long sleeves) and shampoo ... and we skip lunch.

W has afternoon coffee with a university friend while I drive to a discount store for PJs. I'm staggered by the number of decorative items in the shop. The shelves seem empty after the chaos of Bandung shops and the aisles devoid of shopping crowds. At the checkout I discover I haven't brought my money; I took it from my tote and got distracted. It never made it into my purse. Sigh. The clerk tapes my business card on the bags and home I go. It's amazing how fast traffic is moving as I'm driving (!!! I'm driving !!! all by myself and feeling relaxed). What a treat.

Melissa has cooked dinner so granddaughter Miss K and I whistle through our food and then hop back in the car. At the store, she chooses PlayDough over a puzzle book and I pay for my purchases.

W heads out about 9pm and I sort through storage bins for clothing, a fluffy duvet, and toiletries before bed at about 11.

Of course I'm wide awake at 3am and can't get back to sleep. The WPPRs - my accountability group - heads for the Lyon's Den in Bothell at 9am. Willy buys my breakfast sandwich and tea and we begin to catch up.

We four began to meet in the fall of 1993. We've shaped each other in so many ways, brainstorming, considering life and consequences, and praying together over our families and our activities. This past year, before W and I moved to Indonesia, one of the group relocated to California. She's been back on family business and she extends her trip until tomorrow so we can meet. How special to have this time together! It's as though we haven't been apart.

They surprise me with an early birthday cake and lovely gift. I hand over a silk scarf and a wooden spoon to each. Between beauty and cooking, they will remember to pray for us!

It's definitely nap-time when I get home at 2. The phone rings after a half-hour: a political solicitation. Ugh. But I finally remember to call my friend for her birthday. (Remembering at 10pm hasn't been helpful the past two days!) We're excited about meeting later this week.

A lot of things are still in the basement. We had no idea what we would need in Indonesia, so we packed bedding and clothes into a few plastic storage boxes and left household items in the suite. It takes me a scant half-hour to locate what I want to take home = some of my paintings, cooking pots that were a wedding gift (and don't work on the induction burners downstairs), and a tea cup and saucer. I'll wait to see how much room we have in our luggage: there's no sense in pulling out what we have to put back.

And then it's off to supper at Très Hermanos with several Northwest University couples. What a treat to see their faces. But the food portions! I only manage to eat two of my eight pieces of quesadilla.  From afar, W regrets missing the dinner. I'm too distracted by good company to take pictures.

Just before 2am Wednesday, I start feeling sleepy. Little Levi starts crying upstairs. Poor mama and dad! Let's all try to sleep through the rest of the night.  I have a morning appointment. Time to pop in my earplugs.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Korean pit stop

A pit stop is where you refresh your energy to keep going. That's what Korea is for us. Thank you for your prayers for safe travels!

A beautiful sunrise as we land in Korea
When W and I land in Incheon, Korea, we see a sign for free tours. Really? You can leave the airport, explore town, and get back on the plane without hassle? Ok, let's try it. Pictures tell the tale.

First, we are whisked through some back halls and signed into the country. "I hate long lines," says the gal leading us. We signs our temporary entry papers and she points us toward the tour desk (free tours hosted by the airport). 

We sign up for a 1-hour trip to a temple. The C12 Buddhist temple is a 15-minute bus ride from the airport. "35% of Koreans are Protestant. 17% are Catholic. But this is a Buddhist site and the materials used are natural: bronze, wood, clay, steel, and stone," the guide explains.

Ongoing construction in front of a manmade carving
Along the path, a glass case encloses altar candles, lit in front of a tall white statue of a Buddha. "To express the compassion of the universe, Koreans offer incense, rice flour, candles, and flowers," says our guide. I'm struck by the prophet Isaiah's incredulity that anyone would pray to something their own hands have made. Who would think of prayer to a stone or piece of wood or clay that does not move, listen, or respond? (Read the scripture passage below.) 

"We use 5 colors of paints," continues the guide. "White, black, red, blue, and yellow. Our greens are a combination of our other colors. This big bell (pointing to an iron bell on a stand) is rung 33 times in the morning and 28 times at night. We say that souls go to hell or heaven after death. This soul travel takes 39 days. When the monk rings the bells, we hope the dead person will hear the sound and gain salvation to slip into heaven."

Beautiful folk paintings on the Buddhist temple
Everywhere we go, people explain their hopes for salvation. No one wants to end up in hell. The Christian confidence that Christ has purchased our salvation resonates with me. Today, it sounds so much more logical than praying to a carved statue in hopes of ending up in a good afterlife ... after 39 days of soul travels. What do you think?

A cat snoozes on a mat in front of the bronze altar
We have an hour between tours. We eat bibimbap and sweet rice noodle dish for breakfast. It has a rich warm flavor. Now we stink of kimchee (garlic).

Soon we're back at the tour desk, lining up to board another bus. Joy is an amazing tour guide and makes the 3 1/2 hours lots of fun. "The port of Inchon has longest bridge of Korea: it takes us 22 km from the airport to the Incheon mainland. The toll for the bridge is $12 each way. Gas costs $1.50 late or $6 gallon. Samsung and LG are the main electronics made in Korea."

Miles of mud flats under a bright sky
"By the way," Joy points to the sea beside us, "the sea has just come in. The tide here is 9 meters (30 feet) high. First thing in the morning you can see the mud flats [as W and I did at 8am]. We'll have an annual Mud Festival in July."

A blond royal in Korea? I doubt it.
Joy spills out fun facts on the way to a cultural center. We learn about Korean royalty and get pictures taken in traditional court dress. We all walk around a nearby park. The plants are resting in greys and browns, and the leafless tree-trunks are quietly contemplating the end of winter. W and I climb about a hundred steps up to a viewing platform before high-tailing it back to the bus.

W poses at a table set with traditional Korean food
that would have been served to royalty
 Our final stop is a food market. 

Clean and sweet-smelling: a Korean food market
Joy points out the market specialty: fried Chicken. She advises us to push past the long lines outside (waiting for takeaway) and to eat inside. "We can't eat on the bus or it would smell bad for the next passengers." True, there's a lot of garlic in the cooking! As people climb up the steps to the second floor and more seating, we invite them to join our table. The latecomers pull another table over. 

Our nationalities are Japanese, Pilipino, Canadian, and Singaporean. It's an international feast. The chicken is amazing, too. We laugh, talk, and eat together.

While we're heading back at the airport, W and I are talking about what we'd do on a long layover the new time through Incheon. Our daughter loves Korea. With its vibrant colors, friendly people, and good food, we know why.

Read more:
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?

Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lordor instruct the Lord as his counselor? Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge, or showed him the path of understanding?

Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust. ... Before him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by him as worthless and less than nothing.

With whom, then, will you compare God? To what image will you liken him? As for an idol, a metalworker casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and fashions silver chains for it. A person too poor to present such an offering selects wood that will not rot; they look for a skilled worker to set up an idol that will not topple.

Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.

“To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. 

Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. 

Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lordmy cause is disregarded by my God”?

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (From Isaiah 40)

Prayer: Lord, we worship you as the One True God. Help us to remember that you understand us, even when we do not understand you. We rest today in your lovingkindness. Amen.

Travelers underway

Labu Siam (Chayote)
Friday, March 13, 2015
Josie comes at 9am to tutor us. Her mom, visiting for the first time, explores the yard, points out fruit ripening on the trees, and explains what it’s used for. “If I lived here, I’d never come inside,” she laughs. "It's like a fruit market." Unfortunately, much of the fruit will ripen before we return.

She goes inside with a handful of green fruit, "labu Siam." She cuts one into matchstick-sized slivers and salts it. Then she quarters the other before boiling it for 7 or 8 minutes. Oh my! Enak

"They're even better fried with garlic and onions," Josie says. "That hides the smell." Well, it may smell a bit musty but it's delicious.

A truck pulls in the gate as they are leaving. Tanya, who lived and worked in Bandung for years, has moved back to the States but stored some of her household things for us. Two wiry locals unload the truck and put the boxes and shelves on the porch. W cuts the packages open to find provisions for the second floor. These are needed things, including chairs, pots and pans, dishes, voltage regulators, and a bonus - a ceiling fan to stir the air in our bedroom. Thank you, Tanya! and thanks be to God for moving his stuff around.

We clean, do a few loads of laundry, and start to pack.

Exploring the backyard: what food is back there?
Today we fly to Seattle. The pembantu Ibu A and her husband Pak E arrive at 8am. She irons a few clothes to be packed. She'll empty the freezer and fridge and share the food with her family. He pulls the paint roller out of the tray of white paint he left out overnight. ("The air is so humid that it doesn't dry out," says W.) Pak E continues his swath through the house. It takes him 2-3 days to patch and paint a bedroom so we know he’s in no hurry.

I walk Ibu A past some "accumulations of years" edging the stairs and the walls. “Please have this gone when we return, ok?” (requested in bad Indonesian). She says she will try. We’ve left money for food ($1.70/day) and she is to keep a record of time worked and money spent. We’ll see how that goes.

We didn’t pack until yesterday and I don't stress much since W takes care of travel details, but the move has tired me out. Beautiful trees, shrubs in bloom, and lush green planted terraces line the highway; I focus on anything but weaving in and out of traffic. (It's harder to be a passenger than a driver.) Bandung is "home". We will miss the people we’ve met. We say goodbye to a few neighbors and pray with the helper and her husband before we leave: blessings on them and protection on the house. I nap in the car after we leave Bandung at 11am. 

W gets anxious about arriving on time. What will traffic be like? It's actually not bad. We stop for lunch at A&W (I know, right?) before filling up with gas at a highway rest stop. In Jakarta, we run into the SuperIndo grocer for Indonesia spices and ramen for our kids. We’re at the Rempoa flat before 3. Dear friends have loaned us their car and driver so we can park our car at the house. Both the driver and W are happy to get underway on the ring road before rush hour. There is minimal traffic even at the toll stations. We’re at the airport by 5.

“Snag some carts, ok?” W pulls the suitcases out of the car. Among our full complement of luggage, some are empty. To move here last year, we crammed 6 suitcases full of clothing, basic gear, and other necessities. Now we have a better idea of what we need. We gave away or sold most of our household in Seattle but packed up a few things that we weren’t sure we could find in Indonesia. W has a list of things like plumbing supplies (drain plugs, connectors for the washing machine – that we should be able to get here, but the shops are always kurang=out of stock.) I want to bring a sofa cover out of storage. The main thing is to make a habitable base from which to care for others.

Ready to cook for company
Glad we brought old Tupperware along!
We can't sign in for our tickets yet. The attendant tells us the Korean Air counter opens at 7. We arrange our suitcases on two baggage carts so we can sit on them. (The one bench is taken). I ask if W feels less stressed since we are here early. Very early.

“Yes,” he says and sets his phone alarm so he can head for the line when it opens in 2 hours. He walks and explores the airport. I sit with the luggage. But then W finds a foot massage place @$7 (including tip). He stands outside, computer in hand. After a painful half-hour, my feet and shoulders feel better and the airline counter queue is open. I’m almost accustomed to airport waits after all these years. Not quite, but almost.

W found a deal on the tickets of course. Return tickets were $80 and a lot of air miles. The total trip lasts about 40 hours so sleeping along the way is a must. We feel excited about seeing our parents, kids, and grandkids on the other end, even though W flies out to a committee meeting the next day. I have a day to decompress before my calendar lights up. Prayers appreciated that we can be a blessing along the way.