Monday, June 25, 2018

See the little froggie? And what else?

Thursday, June 21, 2018
We have a nice group at the women's study, though many are still traveling. It's been a long time since we've been together so it's good to catch up.

The evening study is just as good. On the way, we check out a friend's place. Sometimes it's good to have alternatives for meeting.

The sky is beautiful overhead.

We pass the parliament building in the center of town. It's a beautiful landmark.

The tracery of branches against the sky is a gift of art for anyone who looks up.

Our final Ramadan guests leave today. The dog we have been dog-sitting since last Saturday enjoys a final tummy rub.
In a week, the dog has learned to come when called by name or whistle. It sits as soon as it reaches me. (Yup, it gets a treat.) It learns to walk beside or behind us rather than pulling, sitting when we stop. And it stops barking at everything.

Gypsy teaches it to bark at strangers and to bring a leaf to us when it's happy to see us. It's eating from Gypsy's dish (though still growling when G eats from hers.) It seems to be thriving, here until next Monday night when the owners get home from a conference.

Gypsy resents the fact that the little pooch is allowed in the house and he is outdoors. He sneaks in as far as he dares.

One night, there seems to be an odd shape on the window beside the entry. When I turn on the light, there's a smooth green 4" frog sticking to the glass. It hops along the sill as I pull the drapes shut.
It's a long and wonderful day. I lead the service and enjoy the worship at the international church. W teaches one of his theology classes. After, we chat with a few people and invite them over tonight for a farewell potluck for friends who are moving to Australia.

Then we join a birthday lunch for Scott at Wild Grass. It's great to connect with friends old and new.

There's a scorpion-like green spider on the rim of someone's beer bottle. The client doesn't chase it away but lets it roam.

One of Scott's gifts is a beautiful painting on coconut fiber from Dr H.

I've never seen some of the  white flowers blooming in the yard - I can only imagine the pretty shapes at night.

I'm back at home before 2. I put my handbag on the counter on the kitchen and get to work. It's a potluck but we have no idea how many guests will show up. We've had a lot of messages, "Busy." "Working tonight." "Other appointments already." And so on. Who knows. Get cooking! 

I'm trying several new recipes today. Some of the guests are gluten-free. The beans soaked overnight and the ingredients are ready. But it takes all afternoon to prepare: cheese balls, vegan chili, black bean soup, a fried-watermelon (fake tuna) salad, and bread. And then there's setup - and the first guest is here.
People start coming at 4:30 and keep arriving until 8. The conversation is lively, the food they bring adds delicious variety, and we have a wonderful time.

Hendy brings a cake to celebrate the long friendships.

We close the doors just before 10 and then I get off my feet. I'm tired. On the go all day, I missed the nap I usually have after prepping for company.

W and I agree: the day was totally worthwhile. Hmmm. Maybe I'm not young enough to do this many days in a row, though.

My first meeting is online at 7, the second is on the porch at 9:30, and the final one is a lunch meeting at 11:30.

Lucky Ibu S: we have left dishes in the sink - we did several loads yesterday and gave up at 10 last night.

The group is reading Luke 20 together. Jesus tells the story of the tenants of a vineyard who refuse to give the owner his due share and abuse his collectors. The religious leaders, guarding "their" turf again God (who owns everything), are livid - they understand that the story is about them.

There are lots of takeaways but this is mine: so many of us think God is circling around us. We are the center of our own existence. God is a presence nearby, in our orbit. When we get an answer to a prayer, we are happy and call him good. When we are abused by others' free choices or experience harm, we think he is far away or a bad god. (Not that he is the enemy of our souls who harms us, but we don't think of that.)

Yet, through the ongoing study of scriptures, I watch some of us coming into a better balance and truth. We are accepting that God is our center and everything we do must revolve around him. He is a God who is near and not far away - closer than we can imagine. He promises to live in us if we will accept his terms of engagement, life through the one-and-only, "God with us."

Read more:
*He (David) said: “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—from violent people you save me. I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and have been saved from my enemies. 2 Samuel 22:2-4 NIV

*O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 107:1

*Blessed be the name of God from age to age, for wisdom and power are his. Daniel 2:20
*Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion! For lo, I will come and dwell in your midst, says the Lord. Zechariah 2:10
*John the Baptist answered, “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven.” John 3:27
*God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 1 John 4:9
Moravian Prayer: Dear Lord, we thank you for loving us, for redeeming us and for blessing us. May we respond with faith, love and hope. Give us courage to accept all your gifts—including wisdom and power—with humility.
Dearest Lord, thank you for coming into our hearts to live with us today—and always! May our faces be illuminated with your glory. Jesus, you make us shine with love for others. Amen.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Nature edition: summer all the time

Wednesday, June 13, 2018
It's absolutely a beautiful summer ... still. Oh wait. It's always gorgeous here - flowers, green leaves, and sunshine.

But we're getting crabbier, the more sleep-deprived we get. It's comforting to know that in a few more days, everyday life will resume. People will eat and drink during sunlight hours and have energy to work.

This week, families return to their villages or tribal centers. Repairs are delayed. Errands are deferred. Employees, household helpers, craftsmen, etc. have disappeared.

Our neighbors bemoan the need for cooking and cleaning, which they are used to having done for them. People joke about the big cities being the safest and most dangerous during this week. While there are fewer cars around, those are driven by their owners - who haven't been behind the wheel since last year's Ramadan.

In a week, shops will reopen, work will start again, and we can refocus on the tasks ahead. W drops me off so I can shop for groceries while he goes to the glassmaker.

I walk past a painted archway - and look down on houses in the valley. It's a typical neighborhood entry: narrow, steep, and the passage to a whole village tucked away from the main street.

Our older helper comes for a half day and full pay. Using malinjo leaves and berries from the tree in the backyard, she cooks a sour soup that I love. And she takes home a few extras - some cookies, small gifts, and a smile - she's happy to have the week off.

Our friend Alice is hosting guests from Bali, Russia, and Indonesia at our place this week. She makes sure they are settled in: her own house is equally full of relatives and friends. She'll order Go-Clean to tidy up after everyone.

Tourist buses discharge their passengers at the hotels and pull up to park in empty lots along the streets. Traffic is crazy in the evening as people head home.

The evening study is cancelled, so we visit near home. W and I walk through the neighborhood, calling out greetings, visiting neighbors, and wishing them God's blessings.

"Watch out for your things," warns a neighbor. "The next days have the highest crime rate, since many of us are not at home."

The cacophony of sound goes on all night: chants, prayers, speeches, and firecrackers. It's an all-night buzz. I shove in ear plugs and sleep most of it away.

We go for an early morning walk. The flowers along the way are gorgeous, whether in gardens or growing wild along the roads.
Red tree roots glow in the morning light
White bulbs shine at the side of the street
Blooms within blooms: bromeliads capture rain in miniature water gardens
Shrubs light up a wealthy neighbor's gate
Shortly after 7, we're back at the house. It's a religious and family holiday - and we miss our families. We make a few calls. The time difference is 14 hours (we're ahead) so everyone is headed for bed as we're getting started.

For some reason, I'm in the mood for scones. So I pull out the Fischer scone mix from Seattle and whip up a few for W and myself. Blueberry yoghurt subs for clotted creme. And an old jar of IKEA lingonberry jam replaces lemon curd. It's our own version of a comfort breakfast.

We eat overlooking the garden. Orchid roots droop in tangles from the gnarled guava tree. Pink zinnias tower over the gardenia bush and stalks of white ginger blossoms. Sweet fragrances drift toward us on the breeze. The morning turns cool after an initial sunny hour or two: 72oF (21oC). Brrr.

In the late morning, I walk to Dr H's house. Families are sitting outside on every street, visiting and chit-chatting. Kids chase around their many little cousins.

Dr H and I visit a friend in hospital. It's Mary's birthday but she's spending it in recovery from knee surgery. Not fun.

W and I walk a few blocks to the Nara restaurant complex. The manager of Wild Grass Restaurant sees W and stops by to say hello. W was their first customer a few years ago, while I was applying for my American passport.

After our meal, we wait for our bill. The credit card machine is malfunctioning so we sit outside with two couples. They ask how we enjoyed the food. "Excellent!" and we describe what we liked most.

They beam and introduce themselves as owners of both restaurants (Wild Grass and Nara). "Where do you live?" asks one man.

The other man replies with the name of our neighborhood. How does he know us? Is his wife in the arisan (women's group)? They look vaguely familiar. If you want privacy, you're in the wrong place; many of the locals watch us foreigners and gossip about us. They know a lot of things that we've never told them. (We have nothing to hide, fortunately!)

We leave them with a business card and an invitation to supper at our place. "We always enjoy your food. Perhaps it is time for you to come to us and taste a meal at our house."
Easy arrangement. Pop the top of a plant and 3 flowers in a vase.
I'm working on my book again - and getting close to having the text done. Who knew it would take so much effort to split a dissertation into 3 parts? Next, I need to redo the citations and figure out self-publishing. Ugh.

The bamboo chimes rattle in the wind: it's been overcast and gloomy most of the day and maybe we'll have rain.

Read more:
*He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge. Psalm 91:4
*He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities. Isaiah 53:5
If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31 (NKJV)
*In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:5-11 NIV

*In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10

Moravian Prayer: Heavenly Father—may we focus our hearts and minds on Jesus, our treasure, casting aside our feeble fears. May we love one another as you have loved us. Emboldened, may we serve one another in our communities without reserve.

Dearest Refuge, in you, all our needs are met. Thank you! Let no human word, nor mortal utterance, shake our confidence in you. Give us boldness to proceed to do your will and love others. Amen.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Birthday boy and more

W is a bit sunburned today - but we'll get to that presently.
Birthday supper at Dr Hanna's: batagor and rujak
Wednesday, June 6, 2018
We decide to have movie night despite Ramadan. I usually prep on Tuesday but I'm not in the mood. I leave everything for Wednesday morning. W and I have been exhausted. We look forward to returning to "normal" when this month is over.

By noon, the food is cooked, waiting for our "family" and guests. I'll heat it up around 6pm.

Many come a half-hour early. They break their fast with the yogurt and fruit or small snacks and water we set out at 5:50. Some go upstairs to pray their rituals. Then they hang out together, waiting for dinner to start at 6:30.

Wow - we have 14 nations. All sing "happy birthday" to June celebrants. The movie Queen of Katwe is a hit.

Denis, from Uganda, explains a bit about the slum of Katwe as backdrop for the film. "It's really like that, an area of orphans, runaways, artists and craftsmen, and poor families," he says. "Just like it shows in the film."

Discussion about today's question is lively: "What has God uniquely gifted you with, that makes a difference in the world?"

During intermission (dessert break), Beba sells scarves and bags for the charity our small groups are supporting this month. And Simon, heir of a tribal family and a good businessman, sells the beautifully-sewn cotton bags that a friend is clearing out @75c any size. We get a few to store electronic cables and stash shoes in our luggage.

The evening study is small and intense. Most people are already traveling or visiting. It's great fun to explore scripture with these friends!

W and I speak together at BIC (the local international church) about the love of God from Romans 8:38-39. It's a familiar passage to many and we don't have much new to add. But W sets it into its context of trials and hardships: we most need the reassurance of God's presence when times are tough.

After W's hermeneutics class, we eat lunch at Bumi Sangkuriang with a German pastor (left) and other friends.

Joshua and Grace, on a week's holiday from Singapore, join us at the study. Yesterday, we met them at BIC and invited them to the study this morning. The most unexpected connections can shape the future, but we don't quite know how or why. She tells us that she prayed to find like-minded people while they were in Bandung. They are a joy to be with.

The morning study on our porch includes birthday celebrations for Joshua (surprise!) and Waldemar (tomorrow).

W remarked earlier that he didn't like cupcakes made with oil. Good timing, because that's what I was going to serve for birthday cake. In a quick change of plans, Ibu S bakes bread by the time the study is done. I stick a candle and a "Happy Birthday" sign on a loaf and we're ready to party. W blows our the candle, while we consume 3 pots of tea. Along with home-baked cookies and treats others share at the studies, "enough sweets" are never an issue.

We eat lunch nearby. It's empty except for foreigners and Chinese families, who are not fasting. The playground is full of kids who are enjoying the school break.

Sausage and greens pasta. Hmm, never what you expect.
Tuesday - Happy Birthday, Waldemar!
Tuesday is typically our date day, with a half-day off work. W chooses a walk to celebrate his 61st birthday.

We send a text to a few friends: "Would you like to walk in Lembang (the city just north, near active volcanos)?" Sure, they say. So Josh, Grace, Scott, and Sarah (Australians learning language) join us in Lembang.
A brightly-colored house with white vines blooming overhead
A village mosque broadcasts calls to prayer 5X a day
Villages along the way
A typical one-lane street (you can/do pass other cars on this mountainside road)
6'  tall: "fiddleheads' of a New Zealand fern
Scott and Sarah have never been this far north, nor wandered in the landscape around Bandung.
They note that a shrub considered noxious in Australia is also blooming here. We love its flowers - so pretty. But it's also invasive - the road is overgrown in many parts with the stiff bushes and grasses. We scrape past.
The views across the hills and valley are spectacular. As always, the weather is shaping up as it hits the volcanic mountains. The rock under us is pumice. In light of recent eruptions in Hawaii and Latin America, perhaps living this near active volcanos isn't something to be excited about ...

We walk for a few hours through the tea plantations and tramp overgrown paths through the woods. We are hot and sweaty by the time we reach Gracia Spa (hot spring pools). W and I grew up near Harrison Hot Springs in Canada, so Gracia always feels like home to us.

I am slathered in sunblock as usual; a few of the others get sunburns after sitting on the edge of the pools and chatting.

When we get home, we have one more special treat: supper at our sweet neighbor's, Dr. Hanna. She explains how to mix peanut sauce, soy sauce, and lime juice (oooooh! yum) for the fried tofu and fried siew mei. And that the mangos and other fruits are eaten separately, with a sweet-sour sauce (picture above).

Movie night has a way of draining our cabinets into its delicious meals and snacks :-). We have to restock our cupboards so we're off to the store. My morning appointment doesn't show up (miscommunication) but W meets with a young man seeking Christian baptism. Tonight, guests will arrive and stay for 9 days.

Meanwhile, the helper goes on family leave for a week tomorrow. Should be an interesting week. Hope the visitors are independent sorts!

Read more: (ESV unless noted)
*Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. A little while, and the wicked will be no more;  though you look for them, they will not be found.

But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity. The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming. Psalm 37:7-13 NIV

*Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.” With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

In that day you will say: “Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.” Isaiah 12:2-6 NIV

*You, O Lord, are in the midst of us, and we are called by your name; do not forsake us! Jeremiah 14:9
*The Lord is my strength. Habakkuk 3:19
*My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9
*In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. Galatians 3:23
Moravian Prayer: Precious Lord, in the face of utmost unfairness, calamity and despair, may we persistently abide in your promises and claim you as our sovereign. Give us grace to live by faith. 
Dear Lord, in our homes and schools this day, may we be more aware of our role in the world, for you have called us to be children of light. Train us to your higher will. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

The rest of the story

 Thursday, May 31, 2018
We're dressed and in the car at 5am. The day trip to Jakarta is for biometrics and pictures for our annual visa. We feel blessed to extend our visa and this is the first time we don't have to leave the country to do it.

We're in Jakarta within 3 hours (160 km/100 miles). We eat a few homebaked pecan cookies rather than stopping for breakfast, hoping we'll be on time for our 9am appointment at the visa office. From the back seat, I conduct an online interview for an academic article I'm writing. (This unexpected trip has affected four online interviews scheduled today.) I have to cut the first interview short because we are called into the visa office early. The couple promises me a second hour's interview at the same time tomorrow. It's a delight to hear their story and how the joy of their faith informs their service.

Happily, we are in-and-out of the visa office by 9am. We head into downtown to a friend's church. We have to update our organization, drop off a bag for a mutual friend, and pick up the earrings I left in a Vietnam hotel: Joy, one of the church staff, brought them back from her trip to Hanoi.

We're expecting to grab a breakfast quiche at the Starbucks but they're sold out. (Yes! there's a Starbucks in the highrise that houses the church office.) We love reconnecting and wish we could stay for the staff meeting ... but "all of Jakarta" will be headed to Bandung tonight for the long weekend.

Our helpers love the IKEA blanket inserts for our duvets, and they are less expensive than the usual scarf or gift I get them at the end of Ramadan. So IKEA will a quick stop before we drive home. W is very time-conscious. Let's get on the road! I agree; a short delay can mean several hours in traffic.

"I'm having an IKEA hot dog for lunch," says W. I'm hungry enough to agree ... except that it's closed until 3pm for Ramadan and the whole area is draped in curtains. We rush through the checkstand (my second interview starts in 5 minutes), toss the blanket inserts into the back, and are on our way.

I start a second interview in the car, but she is in the thick of another duty. We postpone our meeting until next week and pray that her work goes well.

"We can eat on the way home." W says. A half-hour later, he is hungry.

If it were just me, I'd wait to get home and miss traffic. (Mothers learn how to defer pleasure for greater gain. haha)

We pull into a rest stop and have an indifferent A&W burger (!I know, right?), before pulling back into traffic. The ice cream cone is green. Green.

During our short stop, there have been 4 accidents on the toll road. People may be hungry and thirsty and not thinking clearly, but they're apparently driving. We will save 3 hours (so far) by taking parallel streets. The toll road completely shuts down while the accidents are processed. We're happy not to be sitting in the sun on that road.

We detour along with many other cars. We've forgotten how strange it is to have entire households sit on motorcycles (I like the side-saddle mama.)

Dense traffic - the squeeze
of a motorcycle carrying plastic cups?
Several haul a trailer with a stool, heavy goods, and a passenger or two.
A family of 4 rides the family vehicle.
Another mom sits sidesaddle and holds her baby.
Someone is carrying his business, a food stall.
Version 1. A mannequin, stool, pipes, and ?
Version 2. The only reason I notice a change is a different chair and helmet.
 W keeps an eye on WAZE because more and more traffic is on our route. He takes a few more detours before we get back on the toll road. Traffic is good because of the full-stop jams a few miles behind us.

I call the third couple on the last leg. I am so inspired by the interviews: my article examines second- or third-career couples nearing retirement who go abroad to work in non-profits, at the same time as their peers are settling into inactivity.

We're home at 7pm, a mere +6 hours after leaving Jakarta. Not bad. (?!) Both of us get out of the car and stagger into the house. Actually, we're crabby after 12 hours in the car. We're asleep by 8, which cuts off any venting of a foul mood. Whew.

I sleep through the Muslim chants and a 4am online meeting about writing women's biographies for Wikipedia. I hope to include the women of my dissertation, who worked abroad in the early 1900s and defied cultural and religious expectations in compassionate care, education, and ministry overseas.

I'm awake before sunup at 5am. My second-hour interview is at 7. What a pleasure and JOY to talk to Lance and Rochelle. I feel so encouraged and look forward to writing the article soon. I'll have to do some academic research, of course.

Helpers sweep outside their workplace;
that's how fallen leaves and garbage is picked up.
(There are no "street sweeper" machines.)
It's the work anniversary for our helper, Ibu Sumi. When she arrives at 8, we sit down to review the past year.

I ask, "Are you satisfied with your working conditions?" Yes, she says she likes it and wants to stay. I am equally glad to have her help. (Does anyone ask that here? It's a normal part of a Western job performance review.)

We couldn't do all we do without helpers, that's for sure. Sumi beams when I say how much I appreciate her help. "I thank God for you," I tell her.

Afterward, I consider how much time it takes to clean the dust that blows through unsealed windows and open doors, tackle the bugs that live and die in our cabinets and on the floors, and bake, cook, and wash dishes for everyone who stops by to visit, read scripture, pray, and study. Instead, Sumi does much of that. Our first helper, Ibu Apong, pitches in on special occasions like movie nights.

We offer a small daily raise every year as an incentive to keep our helpers. It's easier not to have to look for someone new every year or two (as some of our friends do.) Training someone who hasn't worked for foreigners takes months: no matter where we're from, expats have very different cultural expectations of "household" than do Indonesians.

Today she's working a half day. It's time to wash rugs - scrubbing them on the porch and hosing them down. Then we hang them in the sun on a laundry rack that W hoisted down from the laundry room on the roof. Within a few hours, they're dry. I remember my Iranian friend talking about doing the same thing with her mother and sisters when she lived in Tehran.

In this blog, we can only tell you stories between other stories, to honor those we serve. So you may think all is eating and visiting or fun and games. But we love those around us so we keep the rest of the story in our hearts and theirs.

In the evening, we admire the sky above our table. The plants are uplit and glow under the darkening sky.
As the sun sets, we order a Thai salad: finely chopped long beans, bean sprouts, sliced beef, basil, mint, and parsley leaves, green mango, with sweet chili sauce. A good combination.

In the evening, several women come over for an art date.

We paint, draw, and eat popcorn. One of the gals stays for a few extra minutes to talk and pray together. It's fun to see what they created.

At the weekend market, the little rabbits are not hopping off the table as expected. They stay in their cages or explore the table top.
At another stand, they are selling winter coats. It's 80o but you have to stay warm when the wind blows or you ride a motorcycle.
Life with Jesus if full of mystery and wonder - and strange new normals. Have a great week, everyone!

Read more:
*But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts. Psalm 103:17-18 NIV

*I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. Psalm 116:1-2 NIV
 *I will satisfy the weary, and all who are faint I will replenish. Jeremiah 31:25
*And as Jesus sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples. Mark 2:15
Moravian Prayer: We exhaust ourselves with worry; we tire ourselves with scrambling for that which does not satisfy. Lord, sometimes we forget that we are nourished and refreshed by your presence and word. Send us out to a world that hungers for meaning and use us to invite others to come and join us at your table. Amen.