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.

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