Saturday, December 31, 2016

Goodbye to 2016!

Stollen. No German Christmas is complete without it. Thanks, Mom!
Normally, I decorate our Christmas tree the day after American Thanksgiving and take it down on Canadian Boxing Day. But what is "normal" anymore? (And yes, it is my joy to decorate, not my husband's!)

Without the constriction of the 4th Thursday of November, the tree went up at mid-month. I wasn't ready to pack up after Christmas, either. (It was like the holiday hadn't quite happened yet.) 

But yesterday, after a gathering for neighbors to say goodbye to the past year, I'm done. I started putting things away when the last guest left.

This has been a week of thinking and planning. Looking back. Dreaming ahead. Scheduling and finding new ways to think about what we're learning. 
Hmm - does he ride in the 2-reindeer open sleigh,
hop on the bike ... or climb into the wheelbarrow?
I admit to hibernating a bit, processing. Of course we are glad to be here. By now it's home. But still ... how strange to spend our first Christmas away from the big-city friends nearby. Without any of our family or old friends. My heart felt lonesome, even with a full calendar.
8' between you and the neighbor? Build something
W is nearly finished writing a lectureship. He's been poring through theological texts. I edit the almost-done versions of his papers. I'm glad he knows how to auto-format footnotes and can write in good English. But theology is not my first love so I crank up music from Focus at Will while I read.
Checking the list twice: a peek inside from the porch, before neighbours arrive
Saturday, December 31, 2016
A part of culture shock is relearning how things are done. When cooking for 30 (or 50) without a dishwasher or other conveniences, good help is a godsend. On New Year's Eve, part-time helper IbuA brings her daughter to help her wash up and cook. 

By the time they arrive in the afternoon, I've made the main dishes. They cut fruit, wash vegetables, cook papaya leaves and red-berried bitter veggies, and make rice. There has to be rice, even with mashed potatoes, egg casserole, and other starches.

We relax in the company of our wonderful neighbors. Some visit in the house. Others sit on the porch, enjoying the breeze coming over the hill. It's been a hot dry week.

Villagers and city-folk alike are shooting off firecrackers (no regulations here!). The crack-crack echoes off the hills and punctuates our conversations.

We have too much food: nearly every guest brings along something. Afterward, "It's like shopping, isn't it?" laughs a dear friend as she and the other women load plastic bags with leftovers. That's another tradition here. Why cook tomorrow when a friend will share her bounty with you? We have plenty for another day, too.

The year in brief review: New friends. Monthly movie nights of 30-60. Lots of people over = a lot of cooking. Weekly gatherings to study Genesis, Exodus, Ruth, Proverbs, Mark, and Luke. (We read and observe together.) Conference calls and meetings. Team recruitment. Teaching in Indo, Singapore, and the Philippines. Language school. Parts of 4 months spent on USA citizenship issues. (W's interview is in 2 weeks.)
Admiring a beautiful silk batik scarf
Thanks for your prayers and partnership! We are looking forward to the new year and God's blessings on this city!

Read more:
*How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! For there the Lord ordained his blessing, life forevermore. Psalm 133:1,3
*Agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. 2 Corinthians 13:11, 13
Moravian Prayer: Almighty Father, we give you thanks for the blessing of another year. We ask for the Spirit to be in us as we start the new year. Thank you for your love, grace, and mercy. Amen.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas to you all!

A stuffed rabbit for a little girl who loves
bunnies: coming your way soon
This Christmas, we ponder with amazement the wonder of "God-with-us". How can our human minds grasp the mystery? And the cross-cultural shock of God leaving heaven to live among us? Such love. Such concern. And such power transforms our hearts.

When our hearts open to God's goodness, our behaviours and thoughts change as well. We move away from rule-keeping as part of religion and toward reflecting the very nature of our Good God, the One and Only.

And that's how we recognize who is doing God's will: is their heart surrendered to him? Then their every act will lean to gratitude, goodness, and peace toward others.

Thursday, December 22, 2016
we've come from below
We are so glad to be walking - and just minutes from our house, we pass through villages and enter jungle paths.
but what goes up must come down the steepest paths

Thousands of bottles lie beside the path (the local recycle pile)
We head for home after 2 hours and 5 miles of hills and uneven stairs. We spend most of the afternoon in town finishing Christmas preparations.
Stairs up and down in the middle of the store.
= for no reason
A family vehicle. Small child standing in front of parents
An industrial building ... missing
the front of a step at the landing.
Oh well.
A neighborhood lane: entry to a city village
One of two towers at the central mosque
My morning starts with a 7 a.m. walk with a wonderful neighbor. By 8, W and I are sitting with a dear couple and 16-mo-old Desmond, eating breakfast. Gypsy, our dog, is "parked" outside, his leash looped around a tree in the parking lot. W will give the security attendant about 15c (which we joke is the parkir anjing or dog-parking fee).

Desmond showing off his cute little teeth
This kid is so adorable.
A typical Indonesian breakfast
At 10, as I walk in the gate, I turn to see Dr H and her daughter Alice coming our way - great timing. We spend the next few hours talking while W works in his office, writing his lectures.

We get a note from our lovely friend Sumathi. Her husband and our dear friend Augustine has gone Home. Our hearts feel like breaking when we hear the news - we will never forget him, a kind gentleman who was an excellent professor and scholar. Prayers would be appreciated for Sumathi and the (grown) children, Adarsh and Amitha.

Saturday, Christmas Eve 2016
Today is a long work day. From 7-3, IbuA and I bake, cook, and clean for Christmas tomorrow. We make about 20 dozen cookies, cook curried sausage, meatballs in tomato sauce, 3-step chicken drumsticks (boil, bread and fry, and then glaze and bake in the oven for an hour), make a French Toast casserole, peel and soak about a dozen potatoes, and wash and chop vegetables.

After a quick nap, it's off to church for a candlelight service. We share 2 plates of cookies after service: they disappear. Everyone bring something to share and a generous man donates 12 Black Forest cakes! Wow - we cut cake and share it - and the pastor sends two home with us. (Will share it with our neighbors on New Year's Eve.)
We have no church service but W and I get ready for our guests. We don't know quite how many will come, but that's normal at our place. Yesterday before church, we had 11. After church, the count stood at 18. Today we have about 20.

DrW comes by with her grandchild. She leaves a set of pretty embroidered bags. (Indonesians are known for their handwork and creativity.)

I am so grateful when a sweet helper appears. Two gals are sleeping over and one does all the dishes. By the time she's done, the kitchen looks impressively ready for guests.
Thank you, Lela!
Friends from all over Bandung eat together, read the Story, sing carols, and chat through the afternoon. DrW from next door sends her helper over for 2 hours: dinner dishes reappear after the meal, washed and ready to be put away. (What a blessing and great Christmas surprise you are, Ibu Emi!) She goes home loaded with treats, of course.

Ibu Ingrid brings a wrapped red and black batik, which we open after everyone leaves. Beautiful.
W and I are so grateful to God for Jesus, our Savior, the precious gift that we celebrate each year. Though we miss our families, we are thankful for dear friends who enjoy the Presence with us.

To top off the evening, our daughter-in-law Melissa FaceTimes. The kids are up (6am their time), excited to see what Santa has brought them. Our hearts are warmed by the excitement of those cute little persons. 

"We love you. Merry Christmas!" we say to each other - an ocean apart, except for the blessing of technology. Before night falls, most of the family check in with each other.
One-a-day, from the first Advent Sunday to Christmas
Read more:
*The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17 ESV
*All the ends of the earth shall turn to the Lord. Psalm 22:27
*The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength. 1 Samuel 2:4
*Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts. Zechariah 4:6
*And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me- holy is his name. ... He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” Luke 1:46-49, 52-53
*[The angel said to the shepherds:] For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Luke 2:11-14 KJV
*The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. John 1:9
*If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:38
Moravian Prayer: Light of the world, we pause to give you thanks for showing us the image of God through your presence. You lighten our dark world and enrich our lives through the fruits of the Holy Spirit. 
Creator of all that shall be, we’re blessed by your incarnation. Separated from you, alone and in darkness, we languished until you came, gave us good things, and lifted us up. Comfort us. Set our feet upon the path toward your kingdom. Amen.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Christmas week is here!

Thursday, December 15, 2016
I'm astonished at the date. It's 2016. Most days that seems normal. Today I realize that kids in their mid-teens were born in this century. Weird. My kids, born in the 80s, are getting older.
I'm online in the middle of Tuesday and Wednesday nights with two groups of leaders. It's daytime for them - 3am and 4am for me. Zzzzz. I skip the Thursday walk - just as well: it starts to pour and the walkers return from the hills without exercise. It's too dangerous to walk on the slippery mountain trails.

Friday night, our Sunday study group celebrates Christmas at our house.
We read the Story and sing carols
Crazy white elephant gifts
We're always eating ...

Our friends take us early in the morning with a group touring in the arboretum above the city. The guide has written a book on 101 trees and takes us through the park. Her co-guide is a poet well-known to Indonesians.
3 famous people (author, poet, Nobel Peace Prize chemist) and me
Tree roots can be enormous (this is half the height)
This glutinous rice, wrapped in leaves,
is our snack at the beginning of the walk 
In front of the Japanese war caves
Caves dug into the mountains by the Japanese during WWII

The enormous tree above us (100' tall and wide) is a Benjamina fig,
commonly grown as a 4-7' houseplant in the West
We eat lunch together before heading back.
Another group online Saturday night
W helps make appetizers for the after-church social. Then our life-group meets upstairs to conclude the Advent study of 2016.

Study at the house, then language school. W and I run errands afterward - and it's late afternoon before we get back home.

Read more: (ESV unless otherwise noted)
*God does great things beyond understanding, and marvelous things without number. Job 9:10

*Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved. Psalm 80:19
*Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust. Psalm 113:5–7
*From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. John 1:16
*Light dawns for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart. Psalm 97:11
*When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. Matthew 2:10 NKJV
*And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven. Luke 1:76-78 NIV
*Paul wrote: Though Christ was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you. 2 Corinthians 13:4 NKJV
Moravian Prayer: Creator, too often we are blind to the wonders of this world. We are your people of faith. Help us to see your wonder in the faces of everyone we meet. 
Forgiving God, remind us that our preparations to receive and celebrate the birth of your Son, no matter how creative or extravagant, are for naught if not moved by and infused with your power. Lead us to receive Christ Jesus, who upon himself bears all our sins. Then, with  more pure hearts and desire, the light of your presence will be our guide, our comfort, and our joy. Amen.

The week before Christmas week

It's the week before Christmas week. I don't even know where to start - when I don't write every few days, the details get fuzzy and I forget things that make Indonesia so different from anywhere else. Here are some pics.

It leaks into the back of the house during big downpours. Our landlord hasn't given us a go-ahead for next year so we're wondering how much to invest in making repairs. The tropics are hard on a house.

On a Monday-Tuesday:
We drop my passport in Jakarta to process a visa renewal. YAY! We get to visit with our Indonesian "kids" and their lovely kids, the closest little peeps we have to grands here.

We get to attend staff meeting, too.
a stunning office view
and an amazing tree in the lobby
Movie night Wednesday - 50-ish people over for a home-cooked supper, reading the Story together, and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (Jim Carey).

One of our friends lands in the hospital with dengue fever. We visit in the evenings.
The nativity scene, complete with fishes in a pond.
 Will post more pictures on the next blog. Merry